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So... examine the evidence
So... adopt evidence-based methods
So... enhance learning
Formative testing- use self assessment and link to improvement targets
I illustrated elsewhere that testing without feedback had a measly effect size (d=0.30) but if you
add feedback to the procedure then the test becomes very powerful in
improving achievement (d=0.61).
Teachers need to do a bit of testing- a summative measure of how learners
are progressing is valuable. As well as determining that magic grade
however (and the jury is out on whether it need be shared with the
learner) the test paper itself can play an important formative role.
I have never met a group of students- let’s call them 9B3, that has ever cheered when I’ve
informed them that they, “have a test next lesson”. I suspect that if you collected the data you’d
find higher absence rates in response to the awareness of an impending test.
To repeat the idea of Dweck once more, teachers must be mindful of the negative impact of
testing on students, and must work hard to shift the classroom climate so that testing is seen as
a tool for diagnosing aspects of learning that students can improve.
Formative testing is an example of this.
It begins with the simple message of the role
of the test being made clear to the learner.
Click the image to the right to download
an extract of a formative test paper that
I wrote in a suite of resources to support
the change in the Science GCSEs in 2006.
Note the front cover- emphasis from the
outset, when the learner is staring at the
front of the test paper and waiting to begin,
that the test is designed to find ways to
help them become even better in the topic.
Self or peer assessment and the setting of improvement targets
Students can benefit enormously from being trained to use official mark schemes. It enables them
to form an understanding of how examiners assign marks to different forms of response- it trains
students to recognize how the ‘exam paper game’ works.
For younger or less able learners, teachers should provide mark schemes written in ‘student
speak’, or model the marking of exam scripts using a data projector and video camera.
When I was a Head of Science in a challenging secondary
school I introduced self and peer marking of exam papers
with all year groups.
Linked to this approach I introduced ‘Test Review lessons’
that involved learners interrogating their test papers and
identifying where they made errors.
The image on the right illustrates how simple test review
sheets can be created that allow a learner to be set simple
self-intervention exercises based on parts of test questions
that they got incorrect. Lesson time is then used by learners
in undertaking the directed tasks in order to ‘bridge the gap’
that the test found in their knowledge or understanding.
Make the improvement targets specific- and linked to resources
The formative test paper at the top of this page is accompanied by a student mark scheme and a
test review sheet- you can inspect them using the links further down below.
The annotated image on the right illustrates
how the test review process is something that
is undertaken independently by the learner.
The challenge for the teacher is to define worthwhile
intervention targets and tasks that will develop the
knowledge, skill or understanding of areas that
the learner demonstrated difficulty with.
The example on the right guides the learner
towards some e-resources on the school’s VLE
that will help them complete the improvement
tasks. They could just as effectively be guided
towards a page in a science text book that
contains a useful diagram, piece of information
Feedback to the teacher
Hattie (2009) was clear that feedback to the teacher is of enormous importance in increasing
achievement. The self or peer assessment of tests needs to be linked to careful teacher scrutiny
of the class response to allow the identification of common areas of difficulty or misconception.
Test Review Sheets