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What is Formative Assessment? - A Guide for Parents

As a Falkirk Council school, we are part of a national strategy called “Assessment is for Learning” or AifL.
Here in Dunipace Primary School, we have gradually introduced many of the Formative Assessment approaches from this strategy into our everyday learning and teaching.
As partners in your child’s learning, we feel it is important to share some information about these approaches with you. 

Formative Assessment is about:

  • Pupils knowing what they are learning about and what they need to know or do to achieve success in the lesson
  • Involving pupils in setting targets for future learning ( you will recognise this idea from your child’s PLP)
  • Ensuring that pupils have ways of letting the teacher know how confident they feel about their learning
  • Involving pupils in assessing their own and others’ work
  • Ensuring pupils receive feedback from teachers about how to improve as well as praise for their positive efforts

What strategies are we using in Dunipace Primary School?

Walt and Wilf
No, it’s not a new double act, although Walt and Wilf do go hand in hand!
WALT is short for “What are we learning today?” This information would be mentioned by a teacher at the beginning of the lesson to focus pupils’ attention.
 WILF is short for “What am I looking for?” and refers to the points pupils should follow to successfully complete a task.
WALT and WILF help to make learning and teaching clear for all those involved!

Traffic Lighting

RED – I find this very tricky

YELLOW – I find this quite tricky

GREEN –  I find this easy

By drawing a traffic light on a piece of work, pupils can let their teacher know how confident they felt about doing a task. They may have made a good job of the task, but that is not to say they felt confident about it!
It is important that teachers can tune into pupils’ thinking in this way so they can provide the very best and most appropriate support.
Pupils can also let the teacher know how they feel about a task as they work by displaying a traffic light card on their desk. It’s an easy way to ask for help!

Mellow Yellow / Green for Go!

We also use traffic light colours to highlight what is good and what needs to be improved in a piece of written work.
"Green" highlighting shows what a pupil has done well, while mellow yellow shows areas for improvement. Teachers may also add a written comment  or speak to children about what they can do next to improve.

Increasing 'Wait Time'

Teachers try to wait a few seconds more before asking someone to give an answer during a lesson. This allows all pupils to have a little more thinking time, which can make all the difference.
As this can be a little tiring on a raised arm, classes have agreed a special signal for pupils to use if they have a contribution or answer to give instead of “putting up their hand”!
Sometimes the teachers will ask that all pupils have an answer or response ready after “wait time”. This means that the class are able to build on or develop a pupil’s idea, whether the response is correct or otherwise.

Self and Peer Assessment

Pupils are involved in assessing their own and others’ work using the agreed success points for the lesson. This is both useful and enjoyable for pupils as they learn to look closely at success points and decide what is good about a piece of work and where improvements can be made.
Pupils enjoy receiving feedback from their peers and this can be a great confidence builder! They also learn how to give feedback in a sensitive, constructive manner which is an important life skill for everyone.
Pupils also learn to use “green for go” and “mellow yellow” highlighting to self and peer assess.

Effective Questioning and Think, Pair, Share

Teachers use various types of questioning to obtain different responses from pupils. Questions can be “open” or “closed”.
Open questions require deeper thinking on the part of the pupil. They may be expected to give a prediction, express an opinion, use their knowledge or understanding of a topic or make a comparison. eg. What do you think..............?/ What if.......?/ What is the difference between........?
Closed questions generally require quick recall of facts or a specific detail eg. What is the capital of..........? / What is 2x2?/ Is it raining?
Teachers will sometimes ask pupils to work in pairs to discuss a question. This gives pupils more thinking time in which to consider the question and then allows them to make their contribution and discuss things further with their partner before their idea or viewpoint is expressed to the whole class.
Class members are then able to respond with thumbs up (to agree), thumbs together (to express uncertainty) and thumbs down (to disagree) to ideas generated from paired discussion.

How does my child benefit from Formative Assessment ?

  • Pupils are more involved in their own learning and understand more about themselves as learners
  • Pupil confidence and motivation increase because objectives are made clear
  • Pupils are able to let the teacher know how confident they feel throughout the learning process
  • Pupils get better at identifying what makes a good piece of work and saying how improvements can be made guided by “success points”
  • Pupils feel included and actively involved in tasks 

  • Teachers can concentrate on the needs of individual pupils during lessons
  • Teachers give more constructive feedback to pupils about what to keep doing well and how to make improvements
  • Teachers and pupils will talk more about teaching and learning

We hope this leaflet has helped you to have a better understanding of the Formative Assessment strategies being used in the school. More importantly, we hope it allows you to support your child’s learning at home. Please do encourage your child to traffic light written homework tasks and their reading record.