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I have just returned from two days of brilliant professional development on the essential topic of assessment for learning, more commonly called formative assessment given by Dylan Wiliam. This was the kind of professional development I love. Even though it involved sitting and listening for two days solid, I did not lose focus. My notability app has pages of informative notes, covered in yellow highlighter for formative assessment ideas that connected with me, red highlighter for strategies I want to try now and purple for those I must read more about. This post will be a quick attempt to process just a few of my thoughts.

If you have done any reading on 21st century learning, or the future our students will inherit, you will know that the world is changing. Jobs are changing, some disappearing and many new ones being created. Our students will need to grow up to be be creative people, able to use technology in novel ways, in order to survive in this brave new world. Good teachers will need to be the very best they can be in order to prepare students for their future.

Dylan Wiliam’s premiss is that formative assessment is the bridge between teaching and learning. Yet what if the teaching is good but the learning poor? How do we know without frequent formative assessment going on in all our lessons?

There were numerous examples of useful types of formative assessment, demonstrated though video lessons, hands on activities and slides over the two days. Many of them I already use and have blogged about before, which was great but there were also several new ones that I plan on using and feeding forward. I cannot do justice to them all tonight so here are a few questions as food for thought.

Do you insist often a no hands up policy in your classroom at least 80% of the time?
Do you use a random picker, even named paddle pop sticks to ensure all students engage in class discussions?
Do you have red and green discs or red, yellow and green cups, or red, yellow and green floor mats for students to use during lessons to show they understand your teaching?
Do you have a Captain of the lesson whose job it is to report with a captain’s log at the end of a lesson, reviewing the key concepts.
Do you use ABCD cards for each students and hold regular multiple choice quiz times during which you can quickly see student understanding?
Do you use mini whiteboards during lessons to gather student understanding?
Do you use written exit passes at the end of lessons to see what your students have learned?
Do you give back maths tests telling the students they have five errors but not tell them which ones are wrong?
Do you place a dot in the margin showing errors in written work but not tell students what the errors are?

Food for thought indeed.

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