Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Asking the good question is key

Teachers in Victorian schools are coming to grips with formative and summative assessment which are now called:
  • assessment of learning (summative)
  • assessment for learning (formative)
  • assessment as learning (formative)
I recently read an ASCD brief blog by Marge Scherer on Dylan Wiliam co-author of Inside the Black Box , about a session he ran at a conference. It's all about formative assessment:

Some kinds of assessment raise achievement, and some merely measure it, Dylan Wiliam told the educators at his session, titled "Classroom Assessment: Minute by Minute and Day by Day."
The assessments that researchers have found most effective at raising achievement are those that teachers make minute by minute and day by day in the classroom and then use almost immediately to adjust their lessons. For example, teachers who walk the aisles to check on what the class needs to work on next are gathering more helpful data than they would if they used the same time to help two or three individuals with specific problems, he said.

Asking diagnostic questions is another way to find out what students do and don't know. A simple technique like an exit question (a question every student answers before leaving class) can help the teacher know how many students have grasped a basic concept or skill and whether to reteach the concept the next day.

Asking every student to choose one of several answers is another way to make sure students are engaged throughout the lesson. Teachers should not allow students to choose not to participate. Research shows that the more students think and talk in class, the more they learn. But questioning should not be scary, Wiliam reminded the group. If the student answers "I don't know," a good reply might be, "I know, but if you did know, what would you think?" The point is that no student should be able to "choose not to think."

To demonstrate some of his strategies with the audience, Wiliam had the group predict which of several answers were correct and then explain why they chose the answers they did. Such reflection and analysis are part of learning, he said.

Wiliam's final message: Classroom instruction matters most in boosting achievement, and improving questioning and feedback techniques will improve the effectiveness of teachers.


patricia said...

Hey, there's a slow learning dude in Australia who stole my blog title! And it's you! (I'm not angry, just surprised since I used to have slow learning on blogspot, but dropped them due to some frustrations.) I just figured out that your comment on my blog wasn't a computer generated piece of spam. (I really am a slow learner.) In fact, when I saw the some of your quotes,and Guy Claxton's name, I thought my computer was playing tricks on me.
Actually I am delighted to learn that that I am not the only one who is bold enough to use the term "slow learning". You must be one brilliant, inspired, creative fellow to have thought of such a thing! We should meet for a long,slow discussion with some convivial eating and drinking. We could meet halfway.
I too have been a teacher for many years, and have grown disillusioned by Bush's No Child Left Behind, the standardization movement, and other disturbing trends in public education in the United States. After a lengthy struggle, I gave up trying to fix the system from the inside. I left formal education to establish informal learning networks. As you can tell by my blog, I've since become sidetracked by my other passions. Your work is inspiring me to post more specifically the topic of slow learning.
Speaking of which, have you read
Milan Kundera's novel Slowness?
It's an entertaining read, and makes the point that when we speed up, we forget.

So, I'm linking you to my website ( and to my blog
( Feel free to blogroll me back if you feel my writing may be of interest to your readers. By the way, just because I like you, it doesn't mean you can have my URL.

Sam Grumont said...

Hi Patricia,

I read your comment and then did other things and forgot to reply --- slow learning indeed.

In fact I'm reading an article on "It's time to start the slow scholl movement' by Maurice Holt december 2002 Phi Delta Kappan and may post something about it.