Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsIt's that sharing and that building up the understanding that matters. That's the first area. The second area would be the way a teacher interacts with the whole class, where there has to be a change from question, answer, question, answer, question, answer-- that sort of dialogue-- which can look quite impressive. But it's actually not helping children to think much because their responses are short and episodic and don't reflect much thinking. Whereas you can think of a classroom in which a question is asked and children are encouraged to talk about it. And then what happens is there are far more pupil words in ratio to teacher's words than there were before.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 secondsAnd secondly, pupils are now talking in sentences and even in paragraphs, whereas in the old type of back-and-fro, quick-fire dialogue, they are only issuing brief phrases. And until you're talking in sentences, you're not actually thinking or learning through expressing your thinking. So that learning through talking and that learning which implies an interactive dialogic classroom matters a great deal. There's a third area, or rather there's a third dimension to this. And that is about how a pupil feels in a classroom. Do they feel confident that what they say can be respected? Do they feel safe enough to take risks? Do they feel OK doing that and not scared that they'll be made to look stupid? And that's a more subtle thing.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 secondsIt's about the way a teacher gives feedback to pupils and is quite delicate. Perhaps the best example we've had, just as an anecdote, is a pupil who said to one of our researchers, "now I know she's interested in what I think, not in whether I've got the right answer." And for a pupil to make that change is to establish a climate of trust so that thinking, speculation, and misconceptions can be brought out.

Expert viewpoint: sharing, depth and confidence

In summary, assessment for learning is a formatively-driven approach to learning and teaching that involves both teachers and students as co-owners of the process.

In a formatively-driven classroom we would expect to see:

  1. Teachers using questions and activities to collect information on what students, do, don’t and partly understand.
  2. From the evidence, that is, what the students say and do, teachers making judgements about where students are in their learning and so plan the next steps more effectively.
  3. Student dialogue, as this is useful in providing this evidence, and carefully planned questions help teachers focus in on specific problems and difficulties.
  4. At the same time, this process reveals to students where their strengths and weaknesses lie in a particular topic, so that they can see where they need to make particular effort to move their learning forward.

In the video, Paul Black emphasises one aspect of formatively-driven practice is the development of interactive dialogic classrooms. In such learning environments classroom talk helps both the teacher and students learn.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introducing Assessment for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre