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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds TEACHER 1: Other types of assessment that I would do in the classroom rather than a test would be questioning, and that could be very short, closed questions to very open-ended questions, just depending on what I’m trying to tease out of the students, but also just too– especially with the more open-ended questions, I can get a really good idea of, do they actually understand it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 seconds TEACHER 2: So I teach in a middle school and one of the ways, this might not necessarily be appropriate for every age group, but one of the ways I like to assess kids, particularly key stage two children, would be to get them to come up with some sort of drama or skit or something like that. So it’s not necessarily a written task, and having them actually present something. Creativity Is actually a great way to assess very quickly whether they’ve understood it. As I say, that might not necessarily be appropriate for older kids. But–

Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds TEACHER 3: I’ve got quite challenging pupils and as soon as they realise that they’re going to do an assessment, they shut down. They don’t want to know. So it’s trying to give an assessment without them realising it. So we use a lot of Kagan and we’ll do a lot of hands-up, stand-up, and we’ll do lots of activities so they don’t realise, actually, that I’m assessing them in the classroom as we go along. Because the minute you ask them an open question in the classroom, they’re heads are down– “don’t pick me, don’t look at me.”

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds But when we take that emphasis off them, and we’re doing tasks around desks and group work, then they tend to like– and you pick up so much more with them that way as well, for us anyway.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds TEACHER 4: I think there’s still more formalised versions. Like there’s the six-mark extended, writing questions that you can provide feedback on. There’s sort of exam-style questioning. But there’s also things like low-stakes quizzes, where if it’s knowledge retrieval that you want them to aim at, and it’s a regular thing, it’s a low-stakes thing. You don’t call it a test. You can call it a test if you want. But the emphasis is not on, I am judging you on this. It’s more that you are practicing the retrieval of knowledge, because that’s what they’re going to be expected to do later on in exams. If it’s on a regular basis, it becomes less of a big deal. “The oh, no, it’s a test”.

Skip to 2 minutes and 21 seconds “What if I do badly in this test?” Start of a lesson, end of a lesson. Here’s 10 questions. Answer them.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 seconds TEACHER 1: And homework, I find, is useful. Because it’s a task done, whether it’s answering 10 factual recall questions or an extended writing, because they’re on their own, it’s interesting to see how they approach it on their own, rather than having peer support. So that, I find that really indicative of, if they do understand it or not.

Varied assessment strategies

To be able to move learning on, we have to know where the students currently are.

There are a variety of formative assessment techniques that teachers can use, depending on whether we want to ask questions, observe students as they work in groups, listen to their explanations or scrutinise their work. We do this to identify misconceptions, mental models and potential learning barriers, and to adjust our instruction to focus the subsequent learning.


The teachers in the video above discuss a range of formative assessment strategies they use to understand their students’ progress.

Can you give ONE example of when you have assessed students understanding that is NOT a ‘test’? By doing this, we can build up a bank of activities that everyone on the course might be able to use.

Provide the topic and context for the activity, and describe how well it worked. What information did it give you that influenced your teaching of the topic?

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Curriculum Design for Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre

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