Tori Murphy, Assistant Vice Principal at Archbishop Sentamu Academy, shares what she and her colleagues have been learning from engaging with the SSAT Embedding Formative Assessment programme, and what the impact has been so far.
The Schools, Students and Teachers Network (SSAT) have worked collaboratively with Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy to create a two-year CPD programme that has been shown by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to increase student achievement.
Comprising nine sessions per year, of 75 minutes each, over two years, the programme aims to allow colleagues to collaborate to improve their practice. Colleagues are organised into cross-curricular groups with a Teaching and Learning Community (TLC) leader who is trained to deliver the programme. The TLC leaders facilitate the discussion but a chunk of the time in the sessions is given to colleagues discussing ideas, sharing good practice and reviewing their action plans.
In each session, an aspect of Assessment for Learning is focused on with strategies shared by the TLC leader. The strategies may not be anything new, but the time given to consider how these approaches could work in practice and specifically for a particular class is beneficial. Colleagues reflect on their own Teaching and Learning (T&L) practice and decide on an action plan for the following four weeks or so. They also reflect and share their progress on the previous week’s action plan. They commit to working with another colleague to complete peer-reviews: 10-15 minute lesson drop-ins to review the progress made towards completing the action plan. For example, I wanted to focus on sharing clear learning intentions that linked explicitly to the exam mark scheme. I asked a colleague to come to observe this section of my lesson with my Y12 Sociology class. The discussion we had afterwards showed me that I needed to be even more concise than I had been in order to ensure all learners understood what they needed to achieve.
In September 2018 we made a decision to invest in Teaching and Learning and staff development. We trained all teaching colleagues in Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP) Level 1 and 12 colleagues in TEEP Level 2. These teachers became the T&L Implementation and Support Group, most of whom are now TLC leaders. We wanted to give TEEP time to embed so we waited until this September to embark on Embedding Formative Assessment (EFA). One of our areas for improvement from a previous Ofsted inspection was to ensure all teachers consistently gave time to ‘check understanding before moving on’. This had been an area of focus since then. EFA was the next logical step.
With the challenges of plugging gaps from lockdown learning, formative assessment became even more important in September 2020. We deliberated over whether beginning a new programme in a pandemic was wise, but we strongly believe that this will help all of us develop in this T&L skill that is so critical at this time. So, we had courage and went for it!
It is early stages so far, so we have no data yet to evaluate the impact for us here at ASA. The programme itself was evaluated by the EEF in 2019 which found that students whose teachers engaged with the programme made the equivalent of two months’ additional progress in their Attainment 8 GCSE score.
In a qualitative sense, I believe there has been a positive impact in the deliberate focus on formative assessment. Dylan Wiliam is reported to have said he wished that he had called it ‘responsive teaching’ rather than ‘assessment for learning’, as responding to the feedback you get from formative assessment is the key. The peer-review process enables no-stakes, focused discussions from which colleagues can learn and develop. This is only going to get better, and make our responsive teaching better, the more we engage with this process.
Contact: Tori Murphy, Assistant Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning at Archbishop Sentamu Academy: firstname.lastname@example.org
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