Embedding Formative Assessment

This project will test a two-year professional development programme on formative assessment. This is based around a pack, “Embedding Formative Assessment” (EFA), which includes materials schools need to deliver 18 monthly internal workshops (“Teacher Learning Communities”) involving all teachers from across the school, working together in groups of 8-12.

Formative assessment involves teachers using evidence of pupils’ understanding and learning to make decisions, minute-by-minute and day-by-day, about the next steps in teaching and learning. This evidence could also be used when planning lessons or differentiating activities for individual pupils. When assessing formatively, the feedback given by teachers moves learners forward. Students are developed to be owners of their own learning and support each other to progress.

The idea is that teachers can guide themselves through the materials, to run a carefully structured series of workshops focused on helping teachers change their practice and embed their use formative assessment in the classroom. One staff member in each school will receive additional support to embed the programme. The pack was developed by Dylan Wiliam with SSAT. SSAT will recruit 120 schools, who will be randomly allocated to receive the intervention or be in the control group. 

Why are we funding it?

The project materials are based on the important work of Professors Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black, both leading academics in the areas of teacher professional development and feedback. Wiliam and Black reviewed the evidence about formative assessment, audited classroom practice and described ways to improve the pedagogy within classrooms, including describing the key features required for its success. This work was summarised in a teacher-friendly and widely acclaimed publication ‘Inside the Black Box’. Feedback studies tend to show very high effects on learning, as summarised in the Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit, with an average effect of +8 months.

Formative assessment is known to be effective and the difficulty lies in getting teachers to adopt the practice successfully. This trial will evaluate the impact of a cost-effective and scalable route to implementing formative assessment in a large number of schools. 

How are we evaluating it?

The project is being evaluated by a team from the National Institute for Social and Economic Research. The evaluation is set up as an effectiveness trial. Effectiveness trials aim to test whether an intervention can work at scale in a large number of schools.

SSAT will recruit 120 secondary schools across the country, who will be randomly allocated to receive the pack and implementation support, or form the control group. Alongside a process evaluation to explore how the materials are being used in schools, GCSE outcomes of intervention and control schools at the end of the second year (summer 2017) will be used to estimate the impact of the programme on academic attainment. 

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2018.