Best Practice

Assessment for Learning

Effective use of Assessment for Learning can help teachers to promote truly independent learning. Advanced skills teacher Denise Smith offers young teachers some advice on implementing AfL successfully.

Teaching has been transformed in the past few years. When I first joined the profession, I thought that my job was to inspire the students and possibly entertain them.

It still is, but now it is more importantly to create learners; people who care about their grades, want to improve their grades, know how to do it, and endeavour to do so independently.

The students’ language and thought processes have changed. Instead of “what’s the answer to this question?”, students are now asking “what grade is this?” and “can I work towards the next grade?”. Of course, the answer is always “yes, go for it!”, even if it is far above their target grade. 

When I give them the grade for their work, students compare it to their target grade, rather than other students’ grades.

I sometimes feel astounded when I am in the classroom. I am in a room full of professional people. The students are rushing around, talking to each other, asking other students what the key words are that need to be included, and helping each other. Their conversations are about what grade they are planning to work towards and what grade they think their work is now. 

Sometimes I think that I should be doing more, but they are doing it themselves. When being observed by a lead Ofsted inspector recently, I felt on edge about the fact that I wasn’t appearing to be actively involved, but the fact that the students didn’t need much input from me to make good progress was one of the factors that contributed towards the lesson being graded “outstanding”.

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