'That's the way we should be teaching'

David Henderson reports on the evidence so far from research into Assessment is for Learning, Scotland's unique attempt to bring about cultural change in the classroom

Pupils and teachers across Scotland are responding to formative assessment, according to leading researchers who have been studying schools in six authorities.

Louise Hayward and Ernie Spencer of Glasgow University and Mary Simpson of Edinburgh University say that it helps moves from "teaching to learning", engages pupils and lifts their attainment and self-esteem.

One teacher, asked whether her teaching had improved, replied: "I would say so, yes. Which is a horrible admission after all the time I've spent in teaching, that it's taken me this long to improve."

Another secondary teacher told the researchers: "I don't think I'll ever go back to being the kind of teacher I was before. It didn't happen overnight.

It happened gradually, as you read material, as you saw what other people were doing, as you were listening to others, as you tried things.

"And I'd be prepared to say that some things worked and some things didn't work . . . But the whole ethos of the system, I still think it's of huge value and that's the way we should be teaching. So I don't want it to die.

I mean, at my stage of life you could say, 'right, OK, four or five years to go, too late to change.' But never. These pupils are only in your room once."

One local authority co-ordinator said: "There has been clearly observable progress in level A achievement in a P1 task after formative assessment had been tried out with them . . . this was also true of a secondary school geography class. Formative assessment encourages talk . . . relearning and improvement."

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