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                   Outstanding Formative Assessment
                    by Shirley Clarke                      



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Outstanding Formative Assessment: Culture and Practice

Outstanding Formative Assessment:
Culture and Practice

By Shirley Clarke, University of London

2014 pb  208 pages
Item # 556   $40.00

Other Works by the Author
Active Learning Through Formative Assessment 
Enriching Feedback in the Primary Classroom:
Oral and Written Feedback from Teachers and Children 
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 Classroom




    Author Bio



I wrote my last book, Active Learning through Formative Assessment, in 2008, with a clear vision of what I wanted it to do. I have always tried to answer the needs, as I perceive them at the time, of teachers on my courses and in my action research teams. I had, in my previous books, introduced the basic principles of formative assessment as a response to the initial confusion about it; woven the elements together in whole-lesson accounts to help teachers see how the bits fitted together; written in depth about effective feedback (as it was in 2003...) and produced a book for secondary teachers. Active Learning through Formative Assessment featured hundreds of examples across the age ranges, including nursery and special schools: exactly what teachers were telling me they needed at that point.

By 2010, I was inundated with teachers asking for copies of the videoclips in my presentations, and the idea of creating a DVD began to form. I took ten teachers from my action research teams and filmed them demonstrating formative assessment in the classroom. Gradually the successful implementation of formative assessment was becoming clearer, as a range of excellent examples was shown. Now we could see success criteria being generated across the age ranges, with talk partners, self- and peer evaluation in action with 5 year olds and 11 year olds.

Last year, although tempted to write this book then, I decided to create another DVD. 'Lesson study' (see Chapter 11) was becoming more significant in my thinking about staff development and I believe that video is the next best thing. I found an extraordinary Inner London teacher working in challenging circumstances whose formative assessment practice is exemplary and whose children's achievements and test results were amazing. Any in-depth study of one excellent teacher is enough to promote in-depth thinking and discussion about how the teaching impacts the learning and lead to implications for one's own thinking about facilitating children's learning. Videoclips from his classroom and from other teachers are provided throughout this book, illustrating key points made.

What I have learnt from my own close observation of excellent teachers and their impact on the learning is central to my own thinking and development, and I make reference to teachers and their anecdotes and strategies throughout this book.

The rationale for the book is as usual to update the key strategies, with excellent examples, but also to introduce more whole-school development examples and issues. Most of all, this book includes more of my thoughts than I have ever included before about the often complex issues involved in formative assessment. I have learnt, and continue to learn, so much in my years of experience in this field, mainly from the hundreds of teachers in my action research teams, in discussion with them, hearing their feedback and in watching many of them and their children in action. My very own lesson study experience! I am indebted to those teachers for allowing me that privilege.

I am always surprised at how far the practical strategies to fulfil the principles of formative assessment evolve each time I write a new book, and this book contains updated thinking and examples. This time, however, there have also been some shifts about our understanding of schooling. The work of John Hattie (see Chapter 1 and throughout) has been highly significant in helping us see, through his rigorous, long-term synthesis of research findings, what we have been wasting our time with and what really matters. Top of the list of effect-sizes is of course formative assessment - the single most important factor in raising achievement and enabling children to become lifelong, learners.

My books have so far all followed the same basic pattern: a journey though the various aspects of formative assessment with principles, thoughts and examples. For the first time I am linking the various elements in a different way - a way which I believe is more helpful for a teacher to work with, focusing more on the structure of a lesson.

The first chapter describes the background to formative assessment and where it is now, giving the various definitions and hopefully some cutting through them to give clarity.

The main body of the book is then split into four sections, each colour-coded for easy reference:

Laying the foundations, in which the conditions for pupils to be active learners, constant reviewers and self-assessors are set up: a learning culture, involvement in the planning and talk partners.

Effective starts to lessons, in which questioning strategies, exploratory activities and examples of pupil work are used to establish prior knowledge, capture interest, co-construct success criteria and discuss excellence.

Developing the learning, in which dialogue is key, establishing and helping children articulate their understanding so far and focusing on constant review and improvement.

Effective ends to lessons, in which various techniques are described which help to encourage pupil reflection and find out what has been learnt so far and what needs to be rethought or developed.

The final section focuses on whole-school development, including lesson study.


There are many excellent teachers practising formative assessment in their classrooms, but in this book, for the first time, I have been able to include schools in which every teacher practices formative assessment and the school as a whole has embedded its spirit as well as the practice. A number of excellent schools share their stories and it is enlightening to see the common threads and key factors that have contributed to whole-school success. In Chapter 2 there are accounts from three schools about how they established a whole-school growth mindset learning culture. In Chapter 12, on whole-school development I have included the fascinating and inspirational journeys of three other excellent schools and included some useful examples of school documents. Those stories are rich with expertise and wisdom and should be extremely helpful to senior managers who have formative assessment as a vision for their schools.

Through all the changes in education and curriculum, it is heartening to know that formative assessment remains immune. In the UK at this moment, teachers are concerned about assessment without levels, soon to be enforced. Good formative assessment focuses around successes and improvement for each learner, against their own previous achievement (ipsative assessment), so grading or other benchmarks are irrelevant. Summative assessment summarises what the learner knows or understands at that moment - again, with or without any benchmarking. Whatever the learner's age, the curriculum demands, the subject, the educational setting or testing arrangements, formative assessment is always relevant, as it revolves around the only focus that makes any sense: the empowerment of the learner. Once this becomes the prime focus of every teacher and pupil, with formative assessment as the driving and guiding force, outstanding achievement is not only possible, but highly probable.

Using the QR codes
The videoclip tasters throughout this book originate from Shirley's two DVDs, which can be purchased via her website:

You can access and view the videoclips using a QR code reader on your smartphone/ tablet. There are many free readers available, depending on the smartphone/tablet you are using.

Once you have downloaded a QR code reader, simply open the reader app and use it to take a photo of the code. The file will then load on your smartphone/tablet.

If you cannot read the QR code or you are using a computer, type the URLs into your internet browser


    Author Bio


Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION                                                               vi

PART ONE: Background to Formative Assessment

1 Why do we need it and what is it ...................2

PART TWO: Lesson Culture and Structure

Laying the foundations

  2 The spirit of formative assessment in the learning

culture of the school and classroom ....................10

3 Involving children at the planning stage .............47

4 Talk and talk partners .................................57

Effective starts to lessons

  5  Questions and activities...................................72

6 Learning objectives and success criteria...............79

  7  Developing excellence.., for all subjects, and beyond

   the success criteria for Writing............................95

Developing the learning

8 Ongoing questioning...............................114

  9  Feedback..........................................120

Effective ends to lessons

10 Summarising the learning..............................148

PART THREE: Whole-school Development

11 Lesson study: definitions and practice.................152

12 Whole-school accounts ............................157

13 The impact of formative assessment, and conclusion ......194





    Author Bio


Author Bio:

Shirley Clarke
is an Associate of the Institute of Education, University of London, and a leading expert on formative assessment, an education consultant in the UK, internationally, and does work periodically with teachers in the US. She is an experienced primary teacher, advisory teacher, and a popular speaker.  Her courses and training for teachers, and ongoing work with her many action research teams, give her a down-to-earth perspective on day-to-day classroom realities which is reflected in all of her books. 







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