Why activate students as learning resources for one and other?

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies for Assessment for Learning. Activating students as instructional resources for one another is one of these.

The following information is from the following article Activating Learners as Instructional Resources.

Why should we develop our students ability to help other students?

  1. Motivation: The teacher structures the process so it is in a student’s interest to help others.
  2. Social Capital: Students perception of their value to others increases.
  3. Better Understanding: When you have to teach others, you have to understand an idea clearly. The stronger students improve by having to teach and the less competent improve because they have a second teacher.
  4. Activating learners as instructional resources for each other clearly helps learning in the short terms because it resolves questions more quickly and provides more feedback, both of which help learning right now.

Click HERE to read how questioning can help students be instructional resources for one and other.

Moving learning forward with feedback

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies for Assessment for Learning. Providing feedback that moves learners forward is one of these.

The following information is from an article titled Good Feedback.

So what is it about quality feedback?

  1. Feedback that moves the learning forward is one of the most critical elements in improving learning.
  2. Nearly 80% of the feedback students get is from peers, and most of it is incorrect – Teach students how to give good feedback.
  3. Everything (feedback) is designed to grow learning – something like “good job” doesn’t do that.
  4. Designed to reinforce a growth mindset.
  5. Most useful when it comes from multiple sources (self, other students, teachers, outside experts) that know how to give good feedback.

Hear how Dylan Wiliam describes feedback. Watch his video HERE. Listen to him discuss how feedback should cause thinking, not be ego involving and create a growth mindset.


Why is it important to share and clarify learning intentions and success criteria?

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies for Assessment for Learning. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success is one of these.

The following information is taken from an article titled Learning intentions and criteria and Dylan Wiliam’s Embedding Formative Assessment.

Why is clarifying the learning intention a good idea?

  1. Because students are much more likely to achieve a learning intention they understand, ensuring the learning intention and criteria is very clear are really important.

How might this look?

  1. Provide models and samples so students can really see what this looks like and compare it to other students samples at their own level.
  2. Work together to make a list of what it would look like to meet the learning intention.
  3. Use student friendly language not curriculum (ACARA) language.
  4. There is no one right way to present learning intentions. Wiliam’s even suggests (pg 56 Embedding Formative Assessment) that sometimes it is not beneficial to tell the students what the lesson is about if that impacts on the way students will go about solving a problem, in say maths.

Click HERE to read about how the NSW Education Department suggests teachers go about presenting learning goals to their students.

The positive impact of self assessment

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies for Assessment for Learning. Activating students as owners of their own learning is one of  these. How often do we get our students to reflect on their learning asking them to self assess on a regular basis? How worthwhile is it to do this?

The following information is from a blog post titled Self-Regulation of Learning Leads to Student Performance Improvement written by Kelly Goodrich. This can be read in full here.

  1. For students to become actively engaged with the learning process they need guidelines and opportunities to learn and engage in self-assessment.
  2. Engaging in the process of thinking about and assessing their own learning and then using feedback to improve requires students to take responsibility for their learning.
  3. Students who are provided with regular opportunities and encouragement to engage in self-assessment are more likely to attribute their learning to internal beliefs  i.e they feel they can impact on their own learning through effort and study (growth mindset).

Click HERE to see how one teacher scaffolds to help her students to self assess.

Classroom Observations

I thought it might be useful to revisit the PBAS Observation process and then share my experience with it this term.

Before discussing the process it is important for new staff or staff who have not undergone the process to understand that we do not have any specific classroom observation proforma at PBAS. We had discussed this initially when we first floated the idea of peer observations and the consensus was that a single proforma was restrictive. This allowed for flexibility for the observer with recording methods and did not force the teacher being observed into using a document that may not have suited their needs. Having said this I think that sharing observational proformas used by individual teachers and other sites could assist with structured observations. I am currently setting up a folder on the Admin drive that will hold a variety of proformas that could then be used or modified.  I will be encouraging all who have used a structured proforma to save it in this folder. This resource may then help form some discussion later this year or early next year around, “How are teachers recording observational data?” Joann Weckert recently shared the Eyre Partnerships model and I felt this looked really useful so have included it in the folder.

The PBAS Classroom Observation Process 

The Foundation Document

This document should be an integral part of the observational process. It allows teachers to see what is considered quality teaching. The document should be used as a starting point for professional discussions and classroom observations.

Peer observers

Observers should be people who are respected and trusted by their colleagues.

Pre observation meeting

The observer and the teacher need to agree to what it is that the observation is to be about. Consideration needs to be given to where this fits with TfEL, the Australian Professional Standards and School Priorities. Almost all things selected by teachers will fit into the Standards and TfEL in some way, i.e. A teacher may wish to focus on how they engage students in classroom conversations. This may involve the observer timing how long the teacher talks for, how often students contribute to the conversation and what questions does the teacher use to engage students in the conversation (this would cover TfEL 3.4 Promote dialogue as a means of learning and 3.3 of the Standards Using teaching strategies).

Observe the lesson and the learners

What are the students doing, saying (writing) and discussing? There should be no hidden agendas. Focus of the observation should be about improving student learning and not ranking/grading the teacher.

Immediate feedback

Immediately after the lesson discuss data that you collected briefly focusing on what really helped the student learning (if possible).

Follow up meeting

Both parties will meet after the observation preferably within 48 hours and discuss professional development ideas. Initially the meeting needs to provide specific feedback based on the original goals set prior to the observation. After this questions like, “How can I use the feedback to improve future lessons?”, “Where to now?”, “How will I get there?” and “When will my next observation occur?” are important to consider in terms of improving teacher quality.

My Experience This Term

This term I have approached Denise to observe two lessons initially. My R/1 PE class and my 9/10 Pastoral Care class. The 9/10 observation will not occur until week 9 but I have completed my first R/1 PE observation.

R/1 PE class – The focus for this observation (and observations to come) is how I provide feedback to students, how often and what types. The observation focus was on constructive, positive and negative feedback in relation to skill learning and behaviour. Denise kindly made up a proforma that would allow her to record this information. I will ask Denise to put this proforma in the folder that I mentioned earlier so that staff can also use or modify it to suit their purposes. Below is the completed document. The green highlights those I provided with constructive feedback while the orange highlights those I provided with no feedback during the lesson. My aim is for Denise to come in a number of times over the remainder of the year to complete the same proforma. Hopefully this will assist me with ensuring that I provide feedback to all students, particularly the constructive feedback. My intention is for the information to keep me focused on providing constructive feedback rather than too much negative/positive feedback.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Promethean IWB Activote and Socrative – Student Response Systems

Promethean IWB ActiVote

Collecting feedback from students regularly (daily) and in a way that allows a teacher to see areas of weakness across a class or with individual students is important if we are to move student learning forward. At PBAS Paul has set up and is using the ActiVote devices with his Year 5/6 class to get feedback from the students about how well they have understood concepts he is teaching.

ActiVote Devices – The quote below has been taken from the Promethean website.

“With ActiVote, you won’t have to guess whether students truly grasp the lesson content. The entire class clicks to respond and answers are instantly viewed, shared and discussed on the ActivBoard in simple  formats, such as bar graphs and pie charts. Gain insight into student progress and use real-time feedback to determine whether you need to review, re-teach or proceed with the remainder of lesson. Students build confidence with every vote, while evaluating their own progress through both instant feedback and achievement records tallied over time.”

As with most technology understanding how it can be applied and setting it up so that it consistently works can prove challenging. Paul has had to persist and overcome a number of hurdles to get his ActiVote devices working but now that they are he is very pleased with the results. Having overcome the initial problems Paul has a set of ActiVote devices for his classroom set up so that each student knows their device and can quickly access it. Paul can display questions, the students can respond and the data can be displayed immediately in a number of formats (selected by Paul). The data can also easily be saved to an Excel document for further analysis.

One example Paul provided me with was his use of the ActiVote devices in a maths class. Students had covered a concept and Paul wanted to see what gaps in student knowledge remained. He designed a series of questions for the concept and had students provide their answers using the ActiVote devices. He found that for the majority of questions about 95% of the class understood. There were a number of questions however where 75% of the class struggled, providing Paul with an easy and quick way of seeing what needed to be revised. This use of the ActiVote devices is much more time efficient for Paul when compared with collecting up each students homework contract and marking all students attempts at similar maths problems to find out the same information. Obviously question design is critical when using these devices and multiple choice questions have their limitations so understanding and continuing to use other methods of formative assessment is also important.

The benefit to PBAS of Paul’s hard work getting his ActiVote devices up and running is that we now have a great resource to draw on if others wish to use the same technology. I know that Paul is currently working closely with Jackie and her 3/4 class to set up the devices in that room.

Below is an image of the Activote devices. Below the image is a video which is quite old now but will give you an idea of the ActiVote devices and how they work.




Socrative is an online student response system that is exceptionally easy to use if you have a access to the internet and students have access to a device (laptop, PC, iPad). At PBAS I see this as a great tool to use with the 9/10 class as they all have access to their MacBook. With the immediate access our Year 9/10 students have to MacBooks Socrative becomes a very effective formative feedback tool for teachers to use.

To set up Socrative the teacher needs to create an account (students do not need accounts) and once logged in can create quizzes and exit tickets (multiple choice, True/False and short answer options are available).

When the teacher is ready to give a quiz they get students to log in by going to www.socrative.com, click on Student Log In and enter the teachers Room number (mine is 83286 which you can see in the image below). Once students are in they will see the quiz and can begin. As well as quizzes teachers can generate Quick Questions (instant feedback on something just discussed) or Exit Tickets (answer prior to leaving the room).

Teachers can also choose what type of quiz they want students to undertake. Options include Student Paced with immediate feedback – students will see the correct answer or teacher explanation straight after answering the question, Teacher Paced – teacher controls the flow of questions.

Socrative allows the teacher to turn a quiz into a game called Space Race. The teacher can choose the number of teams, auto assign or have students pick colors, then student paced answering of questions determines how “fast” each spaceship proceeds.

See the video at the bottom of the post for further explanation of how Socrative works. The video gives a example of the teacher and student devices working side by side showing what is happening on each.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 9.58.39 am Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 9.59.19 am Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.00.14 am

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.23.54 am

Formative Assessment Reflection

I hope that staff were able to get something out of this weeks staff meeting, being able to reflect where they are at with developing formative assessment techniques with students. It is important to remember that formative assessment is something we have been doing our whole teaching careers. It is not so much about implementing something new but building on what we have always done – moving student learning forward.

As we all took the time to reflect this week I thought it was important to provide you with resources that explain some of the formative assessment techniques that teachers have discussed in their plans along with a few that teachers may not be as familiar with. The Teach. Learn. Grow. The education blog  is where I have sourced the links below. This blog is part of NWEA – “Founded nearly 40 years ago, NWEA is a global not-for-profit educational services organization known for our flagship interim assessment, Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®). Educators trust our assessments, professional development offerings, and research to help advance all students along their learning path.” It is my understanding that this group has worked closely with Dylan Wiliam in the past.

I have also created a Formative Assessment page for the blog which also contains the links below as well as some other formative assessment resources. Go to the top of the blog and click on the Formative assessment page to have a look.

Each article is short and concise and provides insight into the technique and its value.

Visit the following two blog posts “22 Easy Formative Assessment Techniques for Measuring Student Learning” and “10 Assessments You Can Perform In 90 Seconds”.

Techniques in the posts include:

The Popsicle Stick, The Exit Ticket, The Whiteboard, Corners, Think-Pair, Share, Two Stars and a Wish, Carrousel Brainstorming, Jigsaw, ABCD Cards, Basketball Discussions, Student Centered Learning Strategies – Two Ideas for Providing Feedback

New clothes, Do’s and Dont’s, Three most common misunderstandings, Yes No chart, Three questions, Explain what matters, Big picture, Venn diagram, Draw it and Self directed response.

Formative Assessment

In our staff meeting this week (week 1 term 3) we will be revisiting our formative assessment action plans from early term 2. What formative assessment strategies did we say we were trying to accomplish in our classrooms and have we had any success? If you don’t have your personal action plan at hand then you can access it by clicking here. This will take you to the post Teacher Personal Action Plans: Formative Assessment where we shared our plans with each other. I will print a copy of all those shared on the blog and bring them to the staff meeting. Those that did not put their plans on the blog will need to bring them to the meeting.

The main focus of the meeting will be to reflect on where we are at and how we will continue to move forward using formative assessment. Some time will be given to plan in more detail what it is you would like to achieve and determine timelines around implementation and reflection. Our focus on formative assessment is about improving our ability to move student learning forward.

Have you made a genuine attempt to improve your use of formative assessment or is it on the back burner (if it is why is it?)? If what you have tried or try in the future does not work for you the need to persist, adapt and modify is important. The quote from Dylam Wiliam below reinforces why formative assessment is important.

‘Formative assessment describes all those processes by which teachers and learners use information about student’s achievement to improve their achievements. So it’s about using information to adapt your teaching, to adapt the work of your pupils to put the learning back on track … to make sure the learning is proceeding in the right direction and to support that learning. So it’s what happens when you don’t just lecture students and rattle through the material and then ask them if they understood OK.’  Dylan Wiliam, Nov 2006

Below is a graphic that has some of those formative strategies on it. There is also some video, text and images embedded into the poster to help explain some concepts.

Unfortunately the video embedded could only be up to 30 seconds long as the app I used (ThingLink) was a free version, the paid version is a $250 subscription for a year designed for businesses. Due to this concepts are not explained in any detail, however revisit Dylan Wiliam’s book Embedding Formative Assessment for full explanation of all strategies.

Teacher Personal Action Plans: Formative Assessment

After seeing Dylan Wiliam in term 1 and making a commitment to develop formative assessment as a site it is great that we can now share our formative assessment goals (via Personal Action Plans) on the blog. This gives us the opportunity to see what others are doing in their classrooms. The benefits of sharing our formative assessment goals include:

  1. We have publicly displayed our goals and therefore much more likely to go through with them.
  2. We can see what others are doing, hopefully generating more professional conversations away from staff meetings.
  3. We can select teachers who are using a particular technique and ask to sit in and observe their use of the technique broadening our understanding of its application.
  4. Teachers can use the Personal Action Plan as a basis for their observation lesson(s) with a peer. Have someone observe and give feedback on your formative assessment strategies.

Below are the Personal Action Plans of teachers at PBAS which outline how they have used and will continue to use formative assessment strategies based on Dylan Wiliam’s book Embedded Formative Assessment.


IMG_3483 IMG_3482 IMG_3486 IMG_3484 IMG_3487 IMG_3481 IMG_3485 IMG_3480




Dylan Wiliam Formative Assessment

As the end of term 1 approaches I thought was timely to remind staff of our commitment as a school to formative assessment and in particular the work of Dylan Wiliam.

My initial proposal that all teaching staff select at least one strategy around formative assessment to put into their performance development plan seems to have had a successful start (based on the response to the initial blog post). The school has purchased Dylan Wiliam’s “Embedding Formative Assessment – a two year professional development program for schools”. I am currently working my way through this resource to see how we can use and adopt the processes in it at PBAS.

Click here to refer back to my initial proposal if you need to revisit this information or want to read through the comments made by staff.

I think it is also important to remember that this is not a sprint and that as as school we are looking for teachers to embed one or two strategies into their teaching during 2014 rather than trying five or six that all disappear in three months.

In the hope that the discussion continues I am asking that staff contribute to this blog post by updating where they are at with formative assessment, what have you been trialling and how is it going and what direction are you heading?

To get the ball rolling I would like to share my progress with my formative assessment focus, quality self and peer assessment, which to paraphrase Dylan Wiliam, “improves learning by up to twice the speed of students who do not engage in rigorous self and peer assessment”. I must admit I have a fair way to go to improve students knowledge of how to give quality feedback and then use that feedback to effectively move their learning forward. We have managed to discuss these issues though and through our athletics and badminton units students have had plenty of opportunity to provide feedback and use feedback to move their learning forward. I have included a video below that includes some student videos showing how they had to present their learning to me for assessment.

Peer and self assessment process:

Step 1 involved the discussion of ‘what is meaningful feedback?’

Step 2 required a peer to video a student performing a skill using an iPad and downloading it to their MacBook.

Step 3 involved me ensuring there was some consistant expectations about how the skills were to be performed. Use of You Tube, teacher modelling, peer modelling and written criteria helped achieve this.

Step 4 required peers to review the video taken at step 2 and provide feedback on how that skill could be improved. This was written down in their PE books using a proforma created by me that provided success criteria to guide the students.

Step 5 allowed students to select one piece of feedback provided by a peer. They spent a few lessons trying to improve this area of the skill. At this point I contributed feedback to assist students.

Step 6 required students to take a second video that would demonstrate their learning. Both videos were put side by side in iMovie with students adding text to acknowledge the feedback they were given and also explain where the improvement occurred.

My aim is to continue this process throughout 2014, refining the process and the students ability to provide and use feedback.

The Australian Curriculum HPE requires students to demonstrate the ability to provide feedback as well as use feedback to improve performance.