Cold calling, elaborative questioning, think bounce pounce, quizizz: these are all tools which I have historically used to gauge student progress in lessons. I have always felt that if my cold calling and questioning is strong, I can make a good estimate of students learning.

I was monumentally wrong.

This year I have been trialling a variety of different Assessment for Learning techniques but often the simplest solution is also the best one.

Why is assessment for learning such an important part of the picture? Assessment is the bridge between teaching and learning. Assessment is the only way you can find out whether what you’ve been taught has been learnt.’

Dylan William[1]

Why everything changed

Once I took the time to truly consider how to bridge this gap my teaching became far more effective, and more coherently sequenced.

By nature, I am against prescriptive teaching. One of the wonderful parts about teaching at Sandringham is that we are given autonomy to teach in the way we feel is best for the students and I wouldn’t dream of altering that. However, I am strongly for evidence-informed teaching and efficiency as standard practice.

If we consider a lesson as a learning sequence, then this is how I believe it should be structured:

For me, I can no longer imagine teaching without using mini whiteboards at least once or twice every lesson – they are integral to how I assess the learning of students. They are also, in my opinion, the most powerful tool we can use in not only assessing student learning up until that point, but also assessing their prerequisite knowledge to be able to start the lesson.

There are several reasons why I believe this:

– Students can either use Showme on their device or a physical MWB – equipment shouldn’t be a limitation

– You get data for the entire class in a very short amount of time

– The transient nature means students are less likely to worry about mistakes

– You can instantly tailor or adjust your questions depending on how students have answered previous questions

I know that mini whiteboards are not novel, any of our primary colleagues could shout about their value from the rooftops all day long! However, I feel that they are under-utilised at secondary, and this should be addressed.

How I use them

Like many tools and techniques in the classroom, using MWBs comes down to routines. After only a few sessions of using them more intensively students were giving the answers in a format I need, in a timely fashion.

In a year 9 lesson yesterday, I asked 10 questions of students and got a large amount of data in under 5 minutes (including time to get the whiteboards out). From this exercise I knew which students to direct further support to, and which ones to challenge further.

Why get only one answer, when you can get thirty?

Adam Boxer[2]

Here are some good starting points for your MWB questions

– Ask questions with short 1-5 word answers

– Target common misconceptions

– Use peer assessment if the answer is longer e.g. a definition

– Change the style of questions regularly (multiple choice, simple statement, fill in the missing word, draw a diagram and label etc.)

– Repeat any questions that students struggled on in the previous AFL section, looking for progress

– Use students to model good answers or diagrams by holding some students MWBs up (and awarding house points)

What does this look like?

The picture below is from a section of work I have done with year 10 this term – the notes in their book would look very similar. They closed their books before the MWB quiz.

The questions I asked were:

1. What are the three sources of waste water?

2. What is the purpose of screening?

3. What is the name of the lighter solid layer from sedimentation?

4. Which source of waste water requires removal of harmful chemicals?

5. What process happens to the sludge when bacteria is added?

6. What two things are produced from the sludge?

7. Draw a diagram to represent sedimentation

8. Show a flow chart (no pictures needed) for the process from domestic waste to fertiliser

Student initially struggled on questions 3 and 5. I asked them both of these questions (slightly reprhased) in the second round of AFL after more content was taught and success was much higher.



[2] To make sure your students are ready to practise, use mini-whiteboards – Tips for teachers