Embedding Formative Assessment
Embedding Formative Assessment is a professional development programme which aims to improve pupil outcomes by embedding the use of formative assessment strategies across a school. Schools receive detailed resource packs to run monthly workshops, known as Teacher Learning Communities, and teachers conduct structured peer observations focusing on the use of formative assessment strategies.
A project to test a professional development programme, which enables schools to embed formative assessment practices.
Staff deployment & development
Feedback & monitoring pupil progress
The programme builds on existing evidence that formative assessment can improve students’ learning. Many schools already prioritise formative assessment, but often report that it can be challenging to implement. EEF funded this evaluation as it offers a scalable approach to supporting schools to deliver the approach.
Students in the Embedding Formative Assessment schools made the equivalent of two months’ additional progress, with attainment measured using Attainment 8 GCSE scores. This result has a very high security rating.
The headline finding, combined with further analyses and the implementation and process evaluation, provides good evidence of the effectiveness of Embedding Formative Assessment. EEF will now explore how to support more schools to use the programme.
Students in the Embedding Formative Assessment schools made the equivalent of two additional months’ progress in their Attainment 8 GCSE score, using the standard EEF conversion from pupil scores to months progress. This result has a very high security rating.
The project found no evidence that Embedding Formative Assessment improved English or Maths GCSE attainment specifically.
The additional progress made by children in the lowest third for prior attainment was greater than that made by children in the highest third. These results are less robust and have a lower security rating than the overall findings because of the smaller number of pupils.
Teachers were positive about the Teacher Learning Communities. They felt that these improved their practice by allowing valuable dialogue between teachers, and encouraged experimentation with formative assessment strategies.
The process evaluation indicated it may take more time for improvements in teaching practices and pupil learning strategies to feed fully into pupil attainment. Many teachers thought that younger students were more receptive to the intervention than their older and more exam-minded peers.
Full project description
Embedding Formative Assessment (EFA) is a whole-school professional development programme aiming to embed the use of effective formative assessment strategies. Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy, who are experts in formative assessment, designed the intervention and associated materials. The Schools, Students and Teachers network (SSAT), an independent membership organisation, delivered the project.
Schools received detailed resource packs to run monthly workshops known as Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs). Each TLC was expected to last 75–90 minutes. All teaching staff were involved and split into groups comprising 8–14 people. TLC agendas and materials focused on five key formative assessment strategies: ‘clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions’; ‘engineering effective classroom discussions and activities’; ‘providing feedback that moves learning forward’; ‘activating learners as instructional resources for one another’; and ‘activating learners as owners of their own learning’. Within each of these high-level concepts, the TLC handouts introduced multiple formative assessment techniques for teachers to consider.
In-between workshop sessions, teachers were expected to conduct peer lesson observations and provide feedback to each other. Each school appointed a lead teacher who attended an initial training day and received ongoing implementation support from an SSAT Lead Practitioner. This included a mixture of visits, phone calls, e-mails, and access to an online community.
The project was a randomised controlled trial. It was an effectiveness trial, which tested whether the intervention worked under everyday conditions in a large number of schools. One hundred and forty secondary schools participated during the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 academic years. The primary outcome was Attainment 8 GCSE scores for the 25,393 pupils who were in Year 10 (aged 14–15) at the start of the trial. The process evaluation involved a combination of methods, including interviews, focus groups, surveys of intervention and control schools, and observations of the launch day, some TLCs, and the celebration day.