Dylan Wiliam – Where to now?

I really enjoyed Dylan Wiliam’s presentation on Wednesday and we have been very lucky to have all our teaching staff see him at the same time. It gives us a rare opportunity as a teachers to discuss formative assessment and how it can be done better at PBAS in a way that had only 3 or 4 attended would not be possible.

Some of the things that I got out of the day that were new or reinforced beliefs I held included:

  • It was great to hear Dylan acknowledge how hard the teaching “game” is and how no one ever perfects it.
  • Pedagogy trumps curriculum every time.
  • Focus on the things that matter.
  • We fail all the time and that’s ok as long as we avoid repeating mistakes and strive to improve.
  • We should worry about growth mind set in teachers. There is no place for teachers who think they can’t get better.
  • Formative assessment is most effective when it is used every day in every lesson (at least once every 20 minutes).
  • Always ensure students understand the learning intention and direction of the lesson.
  • Planning questions is important and using statements rather than questions can promote deeper responses.
  • Dumbing things down does not help our students.
  • Questioning should cause one of two things or both: 1. The student to think and 2. produce data that informs teaching.
  • Hard work and practice can trump talent.
  • Grades do not contribute to improved learning.
  • Comments do contribute to improved learning.
  • Combining grades and comments do not contribute to improved learning. Once a grade is seen the comment is ignored.
  • A great range of strategies to improve formative assessment.

Now that we have heard Dylan Wiliam’s research and classroom strategies and have his book as a resource we should discuss the “where to now?”.

Proposal – Formative assessment

My initial reaction is to take on formative assessment as a focus for 2014 (and maybe 2015). When I say focus I mean as part of our personal development plans where every teacher commits to improving an aspect of formative assessment. Team meetings will provide time to discuss formative assessment and allow staff to share what they are doing in terms of improving formative assessment in their classroom. I also believe there is plenty of scope for choice within formative assessment for teachers to select what they think will help improve their teaching and student learning.

My proposal is that all teaching staff select at least one strategy around formative assessment to put into their performance development plan.

Formative Assessment also allows us to engage in sections of TfEL and the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers as well as giving focus to classroom observations if a teacher chooses.

How does Formative Assessment  link with TfEL and Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

By focusing on formative assessment we will also be covering part of TfEL Domain 2, Element 2.4 and the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers Standard 5.1 and 5.2.

TfEL: Domain 2 Create Safe Conditions for Rigorous Learning

Element 2.4 Challenge students to achieve high standards with appropriate support.

  • (Teacher) Teach students how to seek feedback and offer timely feedback to move their learning forward.
  • (Teacher) Engineer learning conversations that extend students thinking.
  • (Student) Look forward to getting feedback from others to help take the next step.

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers: Standard 5 Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning

I have only included the Proficent and Highly Accomplished levels below. To view Graduate and Lead descriptors go to the AITSL page at the top of the blog. 

Assess student learning


Develop, select and use informal and formal, diagnostic, formative and summative assessment strategies to assess student learning.

Highly Accomplished

Develop and apply a comprehensive range of assessment strategies to diagnose learning needs, comply with curriculum requirements and support colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of their approaches to assessment.

Provide feedback to students on their learning


Provide timely, effective and appropriate feedback to students about their achievement relative to their learning goals.

Highly Accomplished

Select from an effective range of strategies to provide targeted feedback based on informed and timely judgements of each student’s current needs in order to progress learning.

I believe it is important that all teaching staff who attended the day contribute a comment about where we should go now with Dylan Wiliam’s work. What are your opinions/thoughts around PD, classroom observations, TfEL and the Australian Professional Standards and using formative assessment to tie them all together? Can we make this work?

45 thoughts on “Dylan Wiliam – Where to now?

  1. I found this a very informative day. Good to know I don’t have to feel guilty that I dropped Brain Gym as well. A number of Dylan’s ideas I have been heard before,.eg the bit about how important it is to teach Resilience is straight from Guy Claxton which he acknowledged. The ideas that where presented will be easy to incorporate. I like the way he clarified that it’s best to do one at a time so that it naturally becomes a part of your pedagogy. I have marked my notes so that I know which ones fit my class. I have also put a little sticky note in my programme to remind me to clearly let the children know the learning intention.
    It will be good if we can discuss our progress in team meetings.
    I found it a bit scary to know that the quality of the teacher is the most important factor in a child’s progress. But then I liked the idea that improving my practice involves changing habits not adding knowledge. If I focus on one of his ideas at a time surely I can become a better teacher.

  2. It’s always good to be reminded of the need to reflect on ways to improve our practice and he certainly dispensed some tangible avenues to move forward. The pilot analogy is a good one- I would hate to get on a long haul flight and have the pilot announce they were going to give something new a go. It is such a unique profession in many ways.
    My only criticism is how old almost all the work he drew on was, not that it has any bearing on the practical strategies he spent the afternoon unpacking. I am very much in favour of progressing it as a site. Clearly it is something that would have limited benefit if conducted in small pockets in individual classrooms but would make a profound change to student outcomes if as a whole site we embedded it and made it part of a culture change. I gave big chunks of it a red hot go today and I think we need to train both ourselves and more importantly the students, especially around how we all give, receive and use feedback.
    Nick’s proposal seems straightforward enough. I would also value building in a chance to share through observation, not through the line management process but rather having stuff nominate when they are going to give something radical a go and inviting others to sit in.

    • You make a good point Wardy. I think training students in how to give feedback and receive, then use, feedback to further their learning is vital. In PE the Australian Curriculum focuses on giving feedback and receiving feedback to improve performance. If students want to succeed in the practical part of my subject area they have to understand how to give and receive feedback to pass.

    • I like the idea of having a chance to see when something new is being trialled, especially in the context of our own learning and being prepared to take a risk . We expect our students to be risk takers but as adults we are so safe in our approaches. We could surprise ourselves.

  3. Dylan William is an inspiration. There would not be one teacher that would have walked out unaffected. How refreshing – someone has come along that talks the talk and walks the walk. Nick made a connection with Tfel -My question is why is DECD not listening to Dylan William? Why is there not a reference to him in Tfel? They consulted one of our favourite international professors. Yes Wardy some research was old, and strategies weren’t invented in the last 20 years either but framed together in the 5 key strategies is the new revamp-It has made the research and strategies easily accessible for someone like me that just wants stuff that works and is proven. I have already tried a few things with success and have a few more that will be implemented in the next few weeks. The challenge for PBAS is to maintain the momentum and enthusiasm once the dust settles and everyone goes back to their daily grind. Good thing to have a focus Nick–perhaps raise the bar a bit – I think we can do more than 1 in the year. We can’t ignore this I believe in the next 2 years we need to be addressing and implementing change and developing practice in all 5 areas.

    • I agree we can do more than change to formative assessment in a year Brooky but everyone needs a starting point. Dylan himself made a great point about how we are already working at or close to our maximum. To paraphrase Dylan, if you try to make to many changes at once you will fail. Teachers need to start with what is manageable for them, what is important is that they start. Dylan’s point about changing our habits is a good one – it’s hard!. If we implement 5 new things but only stick with it for 3 months then we have not achieved the same as a teacher who implements one thing for the rest of their teaching career.

    • Good point about DECD listening. I think they just might have started to. The Education Directors and other leaders heard him talk Monday, he did Tuesday and Thursday sessions in Adelaide and then 130 of us in Port Pirie so one would hope that if everybody did just one thing then that is a huge cultural step forward across the state.

  4. Thanks for organising the day Nick. It was great day, one where I left feeling motivated and eager to make some changes and I have started already. Even though a lot of what Dylan said was about things we already knew it was a good chance to reflect and perhaps even try things we have done before. It was valuable information to just focus on a couple of things and master them before trying more.

    • It is great to hear you have already started Jackie. It seems that quite a few teachers have taken things from the day and been able to implement them straight away in the classroom with success. Can they become new habits for us is the big question? Can we change?

  5. It was a fantastic day. Having previously attended sessions run by Guy Claxton I found this to be a great follow up to our previous work. Learning some new techniques to use in the classroom that can be used with any age level was excellent. I found Dylan to be an enthralling speaker and the way he modelled his techniques throughout the day was brilliant. His discussion about learning teams was interesting with 10-12 participants. I know we tried these years ago but would be really interested in being involved in one again. Perhaps we could trial one at our school with interested participants?? Thanks for organising the session, Nick.

    • My thinking Ange was to use our team meetings for this purpose (PLC’s). This does however exclude primary and secondary teachers learning from each other which is valuable as well. We will have to have more of a think about what will work best.

  6. I agree with the comments that people have made so far. This promises to be an area worth re-reading as people continue to experiment and add to it.
    Wednesday’s T & D was a great session to start 2014. Dylan highlighted several aspects of research but then importantly provided practical ways to implement change. I liken it to the motivation I felt after attending the Guy Claxton workshops a couple of years back. Importantly I have kept some ideas going from those workshops as they were practical, easy to maintain AND they make a difference to student learning.
    The thing that I liked was that they can be time saving ways to assess ALL learners in our class – not just get feedback from the “noisy, attention seeking ones”.
    I decided to start small and then build from that once I have developed it into a habit. The changes are not hard, but old ways are easy to fall back to.

    My first goal was to use the “no hands up” concept at the start of ALL discussions. This instantly dragged in each student into the discussions. Not accepting a “don’t know” or stunned silence and then moving on was hard not to do but reaped results. I heard from students in my class that up until Thursday had been “silent” learners. It really helps to move students from being just “compliant” to actually “engaged”. (I stole this quote from Wardy on Wed.) I do still allow “hands up” to satisfy the desperate to share students in my class but after the discussion has gone on a bit.

    In the past I have tried to outline the learning intention but Wednesday’s session has put this back in the front of my mind each day.

    My next target is to make a class set of A,B,C,D (and E) cards to use for instant feedback for some whiteboard exercises. I will try to get these made by the end of Week 4. Until then, I will persist with making the “no hands up” a habit.

    As with any workshop there were some controversial bits. One quote that I’m not sure I agreed with was :-
    “As a teacher you shouldn’t be working harder than your students are”. This was in the too hard basket for me!

    • Thanks Towny, it’s great to see teachers starting to set goals. The no hands up one is a good starting point. I would be interested to see how long it takes before you think the no hands up becomes a habit? Will it take 3, 6, 12, 24 months? The other interesting question would be to ask the students what impact they feel it has had on them? All students would be familiar with hands up so having a no hands up policy will be something different. Do they concentrate harder knowing they might be asked and do they think this is a good thing for their learning? I also like your idea of making the comments section of this post a place for teachers to go to write about their progress and read how others are going.

      • This could become a way of having a PLC without needing a set meeting time every week.

    • Wow Paul some food for thought in here. I liked his comment about students working harder than us, but in the context of them doing the work, not us trying to get them to the highest level where we expend endless energies trying to get them there, by either new presentation, explanation methods etc so we drive ourselves nuts trying to find a new way and the students just sit there and absorb or deflect our new delivery. I believe our work is in the planning and the feedback and the students get to be the doers.

  7. It is unlikely that I will go to another training and development conference this year which would be as motivating and inspiring. I had watched the video and looked at his PowerPoint prior to the day, so was looking forward to hearing Dylan speak, but still did not expect to be so impressed as I was. Often I leave at the end, thinking, yes it might work in an ideal small class with engaged students, but his ideas were really practical. I also did not feel that I was so far behind in my practices and that I needed to start all over – there were some things that I actually was already doing, such as writing comments in a contrasting pen colour and waiting for the students to respond with an answer (in maths at least).

    I am going to try the paddle pop sticks to encourage everyone to listen and participate and will also not accept a “I don’t know” – how to respond to that statement was one of the best parts for me – so logical, but I wouldn’t have thought of it – I have said, ‘Alright I will come back to you”, but never “Okay which response do you think is appropriate”. I also intend to organise cups/circles/something to indicate understanding. The other major change I would like to try is to still give students an end of unit maths test, but spend a couple of lessons afterwards where students can revisit areas which they did not show they understood and for those who did understand, give them some extension exercises.

    • It is great to hear that you got so much out of the day Tanya. The concept of giving the students a few lessons after the end of unit test sounds really powerful. It would be interesting if the students could revisit concepts they hadn’t nailed and then redo one question of their choice to see if they could improve their marks.

  8. It’s been great to read and reflect on the comments you have all made. I enjoyed the big picture messages gleaned from the day as well as the in classroom techniques
    1. Higher educational achievement delivers increased lifetime salary, better health & life expectancy
    2. Teachers make a bigger difference than schools – “variability in classrooms has 4x the effect as variability in schools”
    3. Best teachers close the gap for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, they benefit kids for up to 3 years (I know of some whose impact probably lasts a lifetime)
    4. School improvement is a function of teacher quality; it’s an imperative if you work in our industry
    5. Professional learning is essential but need to unpack what that looks like – job embedded, collaborative, ongoing, relevant (How do you ensure 5/2/14 is not a one off)
    6. Talking with young people about learning…… it’s hard, mistake making is vital, practice, effort, resilience are keys to achievement in any field, expect to be challenged, exhausted – build learning power
    Personally I have a Year 8 Maths class in 2014. Loving it! I trialled an exit card on Thursday 6/2 and then used the data to form 3 groups, two explicit teaching moments (different concepts targeted) and one extension group. Yesterday I used thumbs up & down to get small groups to indicate their opinion about the accuracy of some problems a student had done on the whiteboard.
    Overall my goal is to strengthen engagement and get better at gauging understanding to target point in time leaning conversations / tasks. Initially my intention is to strengthen a repertoire of approaches moving towards no hands up and to use exemplars to clarify expectations. I joined our middle school Maths PLC so will be interesting to experience that as a teacher.
    It was great to have the PBAS crew at the training and even better to see that you found the training valuable.

    • Thanks Roger for taking the time to put your thoughts down for us. It is great to hear you are in a classroom again and able to use some of the strategies discussed by Dylan Wiliam. As a school we really appreciate the fact that we were able to join in on the day as well as your efforts to get Dylan Wiliam to Port Pirie.

  9. I have begun using one of the techniques that Dylan shared and in the first go I could see the benefit!

    To begin with I was skeptical to many of the ideas as all of my classes except one have students working on at least two different curriculums which makes whole class discussions difficult and although I really like the idea of the response cards (A, B, C, D) I am not sure that I can get it to work as I fear that when discussing something with the year 9 students the year 10’s will become engaged in watching responses. Sure there is learning for them in this, but they barely have the time to get through their own learning let alone others also.

    So the aspect I have tried was the pass out card. At the end of a science lesson I asked to students to write the answer to a question relating to what I had been going through on the board during the lesson. The answer took about a minute and the students then handed in the piece of paper with their name on it to me as they left. In less than 2 minutes I had sorted out into two piles those that had the correct answer and those that had it wrong. I then binned the responses, which was strange, but kind of satisfying as they had served their purpose.

    I was going to be absent the next day so had originally planned for the students to answer questions relating to that work with the relief teacher, however there was only one student in the class that was able to answer the question correctly, suggesting that my explanation was not thorough enough and that the students were not at a stage to work on these questions independently.

    So with this little activity I saved the students from a lesson of potentially being lost and the relief teacher having a class of students that legitimately did not understand how to proceed. I set another activity, which was far more appropriate instead.

    I can see the benefits of this technique, particularly in maths where students will often tell you that they are going ok, when in reality they are struggling. By making them write an answer on a piece of paper and hand in as they leave, they are forced to write something and that way the next lesson I can target those students that do not understand or even stop the whole class if it is the majority.

    Pretty simple thing to do really – sometimes I do think we complicate everything!

    • What a great example this is – “So with this little activity I saved the students from a lesson of potentially being lost and the relief teacher having a class of students that legitimately did not understand how to proceed. I set another activity, which was far more appropriate instead.” I would really enjoy hearing how this evolves in your classroom Caddy and would appreciate you sharing with everyone more about how it has worked and if you have managed to turn it into a habit.

    • Thanks for this insight Allan. Just goes to show that the ideas can be tweaked and still be valuable in composite classes. Liked the insight it gave you into what to leave the TRT the next day as well. I think we probably al benefitted from that.

  10. Thank you for the reminder email Nick. I am not yet in the habit of looking at this so I would definitely find a few reminders helpful!

    I also found the day quite engaging and walked away from the day wanting to try several different things as soon as I was back in the classroom. In all honesty, I tried 4 in the first few days and then narrowed in on my chosen two after seeing the reaction each strategy had. Like a few others, I have also decided to use ‘no hands up’ but am still allowing the occassional hand up, as I find it a bit difficult to cut younger students off cold turkey. I was a little skeptical of Dylan’s suggestion to write a statement on the board rather than a question but was absolutely astounded at the reaction in my class. I ended up sitting back for a few minutes listening to them all chatter away about what I had written on the board. I asked them to prove me right or wrong and had an almost evenly divided class. They either believed I was wrong and confidently backed up why (I had deliberately written a false statement) or believed I was right “because Miss Heading wrote it”. We have a few things to work on here!

    • It would be great for you to have a chat with Tanya and Paul about how the ‘no hands up’ is going with them and see if you have found similar benefits/issues even though you have very different year levels. Would love for you to keep sharing about how this is going in your classroom.

  11. I really liked the Dylan William day too. A few things like the coloured cups idea and telling the students the learning focus for the lesson at the start I actually learnt at flinders but it was nice to be reminded of them and to here they actually work. I think I will try the learning focus idea with my primary classes they need as much structure as I can get. I liked how he talked about ways to practically and verbally test students to get a grasp on what their knowledge is of the topic is. Not just handing them a written test at the end.
    I also liked the no hands up rule I’ve already started this with my older classes. I might try it with the younger ones too.
    I have always believed the rule make your students work harder than you do. I always have them pack things away properly and clean up at the end of every class but this motivated me to try and find ways I could apply that during the lesson also.
    The only thing is I do see how you could get away with telling students to hide underneath a desk and shine a torch down in between the tables to scare them with a story haha. some how I don’t think that would go down well with their parents.

  12. Thank you to everyone who has shared their thoughts and plans to implement various strategies around formative assessment. I personally believe that using a forum like this is a powerful tool for sharing professional practice and my hope is that this thread will continue as we develop our practice around formative assessment. Already we have heard from Claire (no hands up), Kelly (no hands up & using statements rather than questions), Caddy (exit tickets), Roger (no hands up & exemplars), Tanya (no hands up & coloured cups), Towny (no hands up & learning intentions), Ange (setting up learning teams), Brooky (make a focus for 2 years), Jackie (master 1-2 things), Wardy (sharing through observation), Valmai (changing habits not adding more knowledge).
    My hope is that all our teachers can contribute and re contribute to this thread, discussing how our formative assessment practices are going. We can also use this thread to direct our face to face discussions. By reading the comments we will know who is trying which strategies allowing us to approach those teachers to have face to face discussions around how it is going and the impact the strategy is having in their classroom.
    Personally in my PE lessons I am focusing on developing the peer to peer feedback processes that I already have and refine them to be more effective. To do this I need to help students better understand what effective feedback is and how to use feedback. We have already discussed feedback comments used in athletics and looked at a variety of student comments of which two examples spring to mind,”your run up is excellent” (javelin) and “you need to raise your elbow up level with the shot put so you don’t hurt your wrist” (shot put). Both are feedback but one has an impact on learning the other does not – it was good to be able to discuss this with students. My aim is that by the second half of the year that all students are able to give more specific feedback that will progress the learning of their peers as well as their ability to take this feedback and use it to improve. Students will be using the iPads to take video which will allow for some real time feedback but also allow them to download it onto their MacBooks to view and review in a follow up lesson. This links nicely with some of the content descriptors in the HPE Australian Curriculum at year 9/10.

  13. Thanks again Nick for getting this up and running. I would love to be in a PLC re this, but sometimes just finding a meeting time is impossible (unless it was 10pm). At least this way I can still be involved in the discussion, can think about what others have said and then even re-think what I believe. PS good excuse and enjoyable to read this rather than write an AGM report. So my lesson from this – put your energies into what makes a real difference!

  14. Exit Tickets Part Two:

    I am sitting here on sunday night after spending 5 minutes going through my first attempt of using exit tickets with my year 9/10 maths class. Quite frankly I would have to say that this is a revelation.

    While I have known for the majority of my teaching career that students generally shy away from asking for help and will often say that they understand when clearly they don’t, this simple exercise has shown to what extent this is an epidemic – at least in this class, but I would guess generally across the board.

    I set a relatively straight forward question (separate one for each group) for them to complete on individual small pieces of paper 5 mins before the end of lesson. They handed in with their name on it as they left. Having now sat down and read their responses I am being forced to reconsider everything.

    Not one student in the class was able to completely answer the question correctly and in reality many were extremely far from the mark. There were also a myriad of responses with many different misconceptions and erroneous ideas. It seems many students just assumed that the question was just like the one they had worked on last in the lesson and tried to answer using that method rather then read the question carefully. Others ranged from quite obviously having no idea to getting the start right but not completing the question.

    While I knew seeking assistance and being honest about their skill set was a problem for some students I did not really realise how widespread the issue was. The students who I knew would struggle as they often ask for help in the class due to having difficulties did struggle, but the other students with the exception of NONE also struggled, many who have said that they are doing well, generally answer questions in class discussions and are quite advanced through the set work.

    So I guess you will all need to stay tuned to how I tackle this. I was concerned that I was not going to get through all of the required Australian Curriculum before. I think now that the completion of all the curriculum is now secondary to skilling the students up to be better independent learners that want to learn and will seek the assistance that they require.

    I am trying not to think about all of the students I have taught before and how they have really felt during lessons, and more particularly when I put them into test situations.

    For such a simple little task it has really got me thinking.

  15. Nicely done Caddy, thanks for sharing. Content keeps us moving forward making it hard to take stock and revisit concepts even when we know we should. I will be interested to hear how you strike a balance. Tanya is also providing some extra time at the end of units after what is normally her “end of unit test” to revisit areas that students have struggled in. Great to see a focus on learning and not racing through a curriculum.

  16. Wow, it is amazing how that one day has inspired so many to endeavour to embed formative assessment into their daily routines. I have loved reading about what everyone has tried and the reaction of students.

    One of the most valuable parts of any conference is when teachers have the opportunity to share what they do. Unfortunately such is the pace of teaching, we don’t have the time to share the often fantastic teaching which usually goes on behind closed doors in the classroom. This current sharing is an excellent way to learn from each other.

    As mentioned in an earlier post I intend to allow my 7 and 8 maths students the opportunity to revisit concepts which in the unit test, they got incorrect. I have a few ideas about how to do this, but would welcome input. After marking their tests, I will give them back so students could revisit the concepts – one way I thought I could do this was to record the students who for example, showed a great understanding of factors, then team them up with one or two students who struggled and get them to ‘teach’. I am thinking of allowing two lessons revision before giving them a chance to demonstrate their understanding by giving them a similar test, but students would only answer the type of problem which they had incorrect and leave the others.

    While I really like giving students an opportunity to improve their skills and understanding, I don’t want to create so much extra work for myself that I could not maintain this type of assessment.

  17. Have been reading these posts and find that I’m enjoying them. Even though I didnt attend the session I have just enjoyed the sharing of what each person is doing. Dave and I have been doing the no hands up in Break Out and it has made a big difference to the response rate and contribution by students. It has given them all more confidence in such an easy way and that’s what we’ve been striving for with such a quiet group. I am amazed how quickly it’s had an effect.

    Also I am working with students in classes more and I like the idea of the learning outcomes so I might catch up with you Nick to find out more about this. I also love that you keep sending out the reminders it helps me remember to look as its easy to forget with such a busy time that we all have at school. So thanks guys for sharing it makes a difference.

  18. Just an update on my peer to peer assessment in my 9/10 PE class. I am focusing more strongly on developing students ability to provide feedback that is useful and then demonstrate how they use that feedback. In groups of 3 the students videoed each other doing shot put, javelin and discus using the iPads. Students then downloaded the videos to their MacBooks. Students had previously viewed instructional video, gone through criteria for success (stuck in their books) and then practiced. Using this knowledge students then viewed the video of their group members and provided feedback to at least two other students. Students then had to select feedback they had received and work on using that feedback to improve over the next few practical lessons. My role during these lessons was to walk around and ask students what feedback they were using and how it was helping. Without having surveyed the students my own personal observations are that the students were more engaged, not out of this world engaged, but certainly more so than had they not had the feedback focusing them. Another plus that I observed was that some students had started to provide feedback during the practical lesson outside of what was expected. This was minimal but considering it has never naturally occurred before I thought this was a big deal.

    This is only the first unit of the year and as I intend to make peer feedback a focus in my PE classes this year I hope to see considerable improvement in the quality of the feedback provided and the students ability to take feedback and use it to improve. I am also hoping that the added bonus of students starting to provide feedback without being prompted will continue to grow.

    • A low tech version I have used in a previous life had skills listed vertically on the ‘y’ axis (eg dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding) and columns with the headings self, peer and teacher across the top. Students had to rate themselves using one, two or three ticks. A peer and the teacher did the same for each student, giving dot point suggestions for improvement.

      There were two versions of this on an A5 sheet. Students went through this assessment process at the start and the end of the unit. This provided me, the teacher, with evidence of improvement or progress rather than just assessing the athletic ability students presented with at the start of the lesson.

      • The next step was always to reflect in some way if improvement had occurred. The aim is to repeat the process so students will have two videos for discus, shot and javelin (6 videos in total). Students homework task will then be to put them together in iMovie for homework in the second half of term and explain how and where improvements were made. I think the concepts a good one but I don’t think I’ve quite nailed the processes so far. The aim is to continue through the year with similar processes (modifying it as I go) across a range of topics and hopefully seeing improvement in the way it impacts on students and how they engage in it.

  19. Just wanted to share a success that Josie and I have had from implementing a technique that Dylan Wiliam spoke about and that is the “no hands up” rule when questioning. Rather than posing a question to the whole group, we have started targeting individuals. We warned the students first, letting them know the reasoning behind this change in methodology. We simply put it that “everyone needs to have something to say at all times”. At first they were a little like rabbits in the headlights but pretty soon figured out that it was always ok to have a go. If they get really stuck we have given them the option of choosing someone to help them. We have both noticed a significant improvement not only in the rate of contribution from all students but the quality of what they’re saying. There’s far more incentive to listen and participate if at any time you could be asked a question. I also wonder whether this is partly due to each student feeling more valued as they’re being asked to participate more often. Whatever the case, this technique is highly effective.

  20. Last Friday we had an excellent session developing expert learners in Visual Art. Year 7/8 students were asked to design a 40 minute lesson for Year 5/6 students teaching them everything we have learned about colour theory. The lesson had to be hands-on and involved no teacher instruction at all, right down to pairing up the students and finding them a space, which was all conducted by a leadership group from the older class. There were just 3 main teaching ideas they had to cover:

    1. Primary, secondary & tertiary colours
    2. Harmonious colour schemes
    3. Emotion, symbolism and meaning of colours (think red = anger).

    Feedback from both sets of students has been excellent. There was 100% engagement for the whole session and it was clearly more powerful than simply assigning a grade to their book.

    This idea came from program in the states where college sports stars, who were almost illiterate, read really simple texts to ‘first graders’. This study determined that student ability or performance will rise or fall to meet self-perception half way. So simply by having students perceive themselves as ‘experts’ boosts confidence. I can’t find a link to the study, which would be 20 years old now, but it worked well here.

    Thanks to Nick and Towny for helping out.


    • This was a great lesson. As you say Aaron the engagement level was exceptional for 40+ mins and the 7/8s worked with the 5/6s really well. The concept of students being experts is a powerful one. Watching the 7/8s it was obvious that most had a really good grasp of the concepts, what a great way for assessment to occur. Just wished I’d videoed some of it so you could have shared it more effectively with staff.

  21. As previously mentioned I gave my 7/8 mathematics class the normal end-of-unit test. Normally I mark and give back to students and it stops there. This time when I gave it back I asked them to look at their errors and then find someone in the class who had got the problem correct. I gave students a lesson to work with their peers. The next day I provided a range of worksheets with different problems which they could use as further practice of the concepts which they had struggled with. Following that I gave another test, but had gone through with a highlighter, identifying the particular concepts which students needed to demonstrate their understanding. Some students had quite a few problems to do, whereas others may have had only a few. One student who had shown in their first test that all concepts were understood, did not undertake the review test, but rather worked on problem solving activities.

    When I marked the review tests, I found that about one third of the group had a significant improvement. All students were able to show an understanding of at least one concept which they had not in the first test.

    I will try this again with the next unit and will also get backback from the students as to whether they found it beneficial.

    • What a great process Tanya. What was the reaction from the students being able to redo a test and try and demonstrate improvement? And is this something you think you might continue?

  22. That’s a brilliant idea Tanya. It puts students in the driver’s seat of the improvement cycle. Good job.

  23. That’s great Tanya. I know I’m guilty of handing back marked work and going on to the next thing and often not giving studentsd the opportunity to have another go. I set my class an Ann Baker activity with 15 counters and they had to work out how many ways they could divide the counters into 3 groups. Each group had to have a least 1 counter and repeats in various orders weren’t allowed. I gave them this activity and the counters and asked them to show me their working. Most made random groups and recorded their work. Yesterday we talked about the strategy of “being systematic” They children were able to spot and follow the pattern quickly. So today I have a similair sheet for everyone however they will have varying amounts of counters. This will let me see whether they will see “working systemacially” as being a worthwhile strategy or whether they will choose their random ways like on the first occaision. So I guess I’m thinking that given the kids the opportunity to revisit an activity is worthwhile and that perhaps some of more capable kids can assist those still coming to terms with the concept.

  24. I was ready to get naked and start the formative assessment revolution until I found my reporting USB in my tray and a student asked me what mark they were sitting on. Not giving a number certainly helped students reflect on their responses better, but I can’t help feel like a bit of a schizophrenic Dr Frankenstein creation now that we have arrived at the pointy end of the reporting cycle and I try and reconcile ‘marking’ with giving feedback. I assume the idea is to use these Dylan Williams type tools throughout the unit, then hit them on the head with a cold, hard percentage or yes/no against the Australian Curriculum outcomes at the end of the unit?

    • I think what you are saying is right Wardy. Constant, specific feedback designed to move students forward during the term with minimal to no use of grades to distract students from the feedback is a change I would like to try. We cannot avoid formal grading of our students when we write reports however the rest of the year we do not have to provide students with grades at all. Some teachers will be comfortable with this while others not so much. I think we all have to acknowledge there is research out there that says grades reduce the impact of feedback and don’t help student learning. Removing grading/numerical scores during the term may not be something that can happen easily. Trying to remove grading, even at a surface level is flying in the face of what generation after generation has experienced and seen as important.

  25. We have taken small steps in the Reception/Year 1 class with Dylan William’s ideas. I have explored the no hands up idea and recently used it for comments for morning talks. I had found that children chose the same people every time while others were not given the opportunity to comment. By using the pop sticks any child can be asked to make a comment or ask a question.
    The most surprising thing for me has been the hand up for attention technique that Dylan used on the day. I trialled this with my class expecting it to be quite hard for the children to do- but they have quickly adjusted to this new process and use it very effectively.

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