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               Active Learning Through Formative Assessment
               by Shirley Clarke          


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          Item #553
          2008 Pb  172 pages
          ISBN 978 0 340 97445 2  $29.95
          [Add to Cart] [View Cart] 

Other Books by The Author

   Enriching Feedback in the
   Primary Classroom: Oral  and Written
   Feedback from Teachers and Children

   Outstanding Formative Assessment:
   Culture and Practice
   Targeting Assessment in the Primary
   Classroom:  Strategies for Planning,
   Assessment, Pupil Feedback and
  Target Setting

   Unlocking Formative Assessment:
 Practical Strategies for Enhancing
   Pupils' Learning in the Primary



Down to earth, practical and direct, this book gives busy teachers the essential ‘how to’ information they need, with clear principles and theory to underpin the wealth of practical advice and examples.

·     Explains how to use formative assessment to promote active learning,
in primary and secondary classrooms

·     Gives busy teachers the ‘how to’ information
they need: down to earth, practical and

·      Well-chosen examples flag up the practical
‘implementation’ issues across the full age
and subject range.

·      A ‘must have’ for every local
authority assessment adviser and every
school assessment coordinator.  Will
be strongly endorsed by advisers and
purchased by classroom teachers across
England, Wales and Scotland.  And now
available for teachers in the United States. 

    Detailed Contents
    Author Bio

Other Subject Related Books


    Detailed Contents
    Author Bio


Introduction                                                                                   1
   Aims; where the examples come from; overview of the book

1 Definitions, history and purposes of formative assessment               7
   Why formative assessment?; its history; use of terms; key

2 The link with summative assessment: long-,medium- and
   short-term assessment

3 The ideal learning culture                                                             18
   How teachers and pupils view ability and their learning
   potential; the fixed and growth mindset; strategies for
   developing a growth mindset; what the ideal learning
   environment should consist of, and effective strategies to
   create and sustain it; learning how to learn

4 How can we maximise opportunities to think, discuss
   and question?                                                                            35
   Dialogic talk; quality talk; examples of techniques and
   impact across the age range

5 Asking worthwhile questions                                                        53
  Five templates for effective questions: teachers’ responses
  to pupils’ responses

6 How can planning maximise pupil engagement and
   Pre-planning; key skills; discussions with pupils; keeping
   the learning visual and interactive; examples of pupils’
   involvement in planning

7 What makes effective learning objectives?                                   81
   Breaking down learning objectives; the impact of separating
   learning objectives from the context; examples and impact
   of decontextualised learning objectives

8 How will we know what learning objectives mean?                          92
   Success criteria: differentiation, pupil generation of success
   criteria, breaking success criteria down, one possible lesson
   pathway; examples of success criteria techniques, use and

9 How will we know what excellence looks like?                               117
   Comparing products to define quality; what teachers have
   learnt; examples of use and impact of comparing products

10 How can we enable a process of constant review and
    improvement?                                                                        133
    How feedback has evolved; what teachers have learnt
    about integrating feedback; the impact of integrated
    feedback; examples of integrated feedback

11 Setting up a learning team in your own educational setting,
    and supporting teacher development
    Establishing aims; current learning team model; overview of
    he project; what teachers are asked to do; teacher feedback
    sessions; local authority action; supporting teacher development
    – working with teachers; the key elements of effective support

References                                                                                171
    Detailed Contents
    Author Bio

I believe that my own journey in writing books about formative
assessment in some way reflects the journey many teachers have taken
over the last ten years. My first book, in 1998, focused on the very
beginnings of formative assessment: getting away from continual
summative assessment, sharing learning objectives, getting pupils to do
some self-evaluation and improving teachers’ marking. Over the last
ten years, much of my focus has been on the detail of the essential
techniques involved – how success criteria work for foundation subjects
and how to get pupils to make their own improvements, and so on.

Today, although schools and teachers will always be at different stages
of understanding and practice, things have evolved to a point where
we can now perhaps fully integrate both principles and techniques. My
last book, Formative Assessment in Action: Weaving the elements together,
began the process of attempting to merge the thinking behind and the
techniques involved in formative assessment to create a coherent whole.
If the techniques are practised in isolation – as steps in a lesson,
without an overriding rationale and mindset about the necessity of
pupils being active participants in the learning process – then it just
doesn’t have the dramatic impact we know is possible. That book
offered various whole lessons as examples of embedded formative
assessment, with all its variations.

The aims for this book. . .

In compiling this book, I wanted to:
● make active learning the central focus;
● include the importance of a positive ‘growth’ mindset;
● include other good educational ideas and show how they link, to
  avoid the ‘yet another thing to fit in’ culture;
● show how formative assessment fits the big picture of all assessment
● give as many examples of techniques in action as possible, across
   subjects and ages;
● make the practical chapters work from both the teacher’s and the
   pupil’s points of view, aiming for a collaborative approach to
● enable schools and educational establishments to create their own
  learning teams, empowering them with the ability to independently
  and confidently develop formative assessment practice and thinking.

Why ‘active learning’. . .?
This book takes the principle of active learning as the heart of formative
assessment as the rationale for every chapter. Instead of formative
assessment being ‘done’ to children, I am looking at teachers and
pupils collaborating at all stages: in planning units of work, in
deciding contexts for learning and success criteria, in analysing
products for discussions about quality, in engaging in continual
paired, or otherwise, classroom talk as a matter of course, in critically
analysing learning as it is happening and engaging in a constant
process of considered review of success and improvement. We want to
‘make individuals active partners’ in their learning (DfES, 2003,
Excellence and Enjoyment): teachers and pupils as partners, and pupils
as partners.

Pupil talk is the central feature of the classroom, the most significant
element for pupils in enabling both an active learning environment,
and the appropriate mindset to ensure that pupils see themselves as
successful learners. Finally, the ability of teachers to shift the locus of
control in the classroom from teacher to pupil – to ‘let go’ – is often the
attitude change needed to make formative assessment successful and

As with anything of any worth in education, formative assessment has
been argued over, misinterpreted and misused. One of the problems, I
think, is that formative assessment needs to consist of some quite
specific techniques while at the same time allowing for experimentation
and development. A too-straitjacketed approach to techniques doesn’t
work because the underlying aims of active learning are not guiding
the practice, requiring constant flexibility and re-evaluation of
learning needs at the moment. A flexible, ‘follow the principles and do
your own thing’ approach, however, leads to disillusionment when
things don’t work very well because the specifics of the techniques have
not been studied. Both aspects make or break the success of formative
assessment implementation. Thus, I have tried, in the following pages,
to bring together what works in practice: specific techniques at their
current cutting edge, with as many examples as I have room for,
alongside continual references to the underlying thinking and aims of
active learning.

Where the examples come from. . .
As always, I am indebted to the members of the action research
learning teams I have worked closely with over the last two years, from
whom I draw the wonderful examples of techniques in action
throughout this book. There have been fourteen teams, each of thirty
keen and talented teachers – 420 teachers in all – trialling and
experimenting with initial starting points and their own ideas, and it
is from them I have learnt the most about what is possible with
formative assessment. The basic organisation of each team is as

• Thirty keen and interested teachers, in pairs, from fifteen schools,
  make up the team.
• The team meets with me for three days, spread over a year.
• On Day 1, I present the teachers with current thinking, principles and
  current techniques, and they use these as starting points for their
  class-based action research.
• On Days 2 and 3, teachers feed back their findings, focusing on the
  impact on learning and evidence to back up their claims.
• Each teacher develops a special interest and ‘showcases’ that on the
  afternoon of Day 3.
• The feedback is written up and posted on my website, so that all
  learning teams – and anyone else – can access the details of their

This book ends with a chapter on setting up a learning team in any
educational setting, so the detail can be found there.

Sometimes the feedback from the teachers simply confirms what
teachers in other teams have already found. . . sometimes the feedback
takes the detail, and therefore understanding, of a particular technique
or principle to a deeper level. . . and sometimes one teacher will have
had a new, brilliant idea, which we all latch on to and teachers then
trial before the next day. Sometimes one teacher’s strategy for dealing
with a problem will transform every teacher’s practice. For example, in
pairing talk partners, there were some teachers who did not know
what to do with the extremely disruptive pupil who can’t be
paired with anyone. One teacher had found that if she became the
child’s partner, within three days the child was begging to be paired
with a pupil, so powerful was the impact of exclusion from the peer
group. The class discussions about ground rules and peer expectations
and rights for talk partners resulted in a control of that pupil’s behaviour
which had not been seen before. I shared this finding with all the
teams and it has become a universal technique for one aspect of the
success of talk partners.

Also included. . .
I realise how easily teachers can fall into the trap of taking good things
in education and following them slavishly so that other good things
are then hard to integrate. I have tried to include references to ideas
such as thinking skills and building learning power wherever appropriate,
to help teachers see how inter-related these ideas are. In one lesson, or
over time, all these can be happily integrated, because they are so

Finally, I have included information about summative assessment in
one chapter, as a way of showing how formative assessment fits the
big picture of all assessment.

    Detailed Contents
    Author Bio

Overview of the book

Chapter 1 revisits definitions, the history and purposes of formative
assessment, with current thinking from recent research.

Chapter 2 places formative assessment in the context of all

Chapter 3
discusses the ideal learning culture and the role both
teachers and pupils have in establishing it.

Chapter 4
focuses on pupil talk, the heart of formative assessment.

Chapter 5
explores what makes an effective and worthwhile question,
and how we can get more out of questioning.

Chapter 6
deals with collaborative planning of units of work,
including learning objectives and the contexts for the learning, as well
as a key skills curriculum.

Chapter 7
looks at the importance of having ‘pure’ learning

Chapter 8
deals with the generation and use of success criteria.

Chapter 9
tackles the issue of quality and recognising excellence.

Chapter 10
discusses the ways in which self-, peer- and teacher
evaluation and feedback can be embedded throughout lessons so that
constant review and improvement become the norm.

Chapter 11
presents a model for setting up an action research
learning team in any educational setting, with a contribution by an
Advanced Skills Teacher giving her approach to helping teachers
develop formative assessment.
    Detailed Contents
    Author Bio


 Author Bio:
Shirley Clarke is an Associate of the Institute of Education, University of
London, and is much in demand as an education consultant, in the UK
and internationally.  Her course and training days for teachers, and
ongoing involvement in action research, give her a down-to-earth
perspective on day-to-day classroom realities.  Her books are acclaimed
by teachers as highly readable and full of common sense.  She makes
accessible a wealth of ideas, research and practical assessment expertise,
giving teachers the ‘how to’ information they really need