This is part one in my series on Formative Assessment where I blog my journey through Dylan Wiliams’ book, Embedded Formative Assessment and share my and my school’s change journey.
Back in the mid 90’s, formative assessment was a prominent part of the practice at the school I worked for. There seemed to be a big push to develop effective and time efficient strategies that would allow us to know where our students were at, set goals and keep moving them forward in their learning.
But 20 years later at my current school, there is a twice yearly struggle as teachers attempt to get accurate assessment information to formally report on their students’ performance.
I see the tiredness and the stress in my colleagues, and the unsustainable hours that they put into this twice yearly process. At times I worry that some of them are about to break under the stress. There has to be a better way.
I’d like to see formative assessment become embedded in our school practice. Assessment shouldn’t be an event. It needs to happen continually and it needs to inform our teaching. Only by knowing where each of our students are ‘at’ are we able to plan appropriate learning experiences which will move them forward.
My own experience with using formative assessment to inform learning has taught me that it requires careful planning, careful teaching, regular feedback and efficient record keeping. It needs to become embedded in our work flow rather than being an add-on. And, it requires thorough curriculum knowledge so that we can harness the teachable moments that arise throughout the day.
It’s also a practice I’ve found hard to maintain. I’ve developed my own systems and techniques but they haven’t been sustainable long-term. I always start the year well, and have good periods of time within the school year where I’m managing this process well, but there are also long periods where that hasn’t been the case.
I’d like to develop a more sustainable practice, and I’d like to support my colleagues in developing these practices too. In the hope of achieving this, I’ve started reading Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam and thought I’d blog my progress, a little like an online reading journal.
Wiliam says in the introduction to his book that he wrote it with two purposes in mind:
1. To provide simple, practical ideas about changes that very teacher can make in the classroom to develop his or her practice of teaching.
2. To provide the evidence that these changes will result in improved outcomes for learners.
And that is exactly what I’m after: simple, practical evidence based strategies that will improve learning outcomes.
I’ll blog about Chapter One in the next post of this series.