Another year, another #NC11 Dylan Wiliams workshops and I can not recall a workshop where I didn’t leave with more questions than answers. I anticipate that this year will not be an exception.

Embedding formative assessment

Dylan has authored two professional development training packs for the SSAT with Siobhan Levy that support teachers in embedding formative assessment into their classrooms.

Assessment for Learning – What is it?

‘Why do we think we have done it, when we have not?’

It would appear that Assessment for Learning is still somewhat misunderstood, or given at least considered a box thats already been ticked. What is more concerning is that current feedback practices are rotting away student progress. 4b is not feedback, its data. Current grade, E, Predicted grade D is not feedback, it’s a learning thermostat. It’s not informative. Again, as per the last two workshops, the message is clear. Grades or levels is not feedback. Even worse grades negate any effort spent on writing comments.

What always impresses me most about these workshops is the conscious, yet polite way, Wiliams’ flips the securities of the room. Instantly reversing the years of experience of the teachers in the room by redefining their role as a student. Clearly, not a comfortable role for quite a few in the room. Wiliams not only communicates his philosophies by models them as well. A confident practitioner in his element.

From here, the post is more notes than a formal post as I really wanted to attend to the workshop.


There is a science to praise. Effective praise ‘praises work within the students control, sincere, credible, genuine, (slightly less than average).’

Focusing on improvement requires a different grading process. The plus, equals and minus grading system. Now the feedback experience promotes progress.

Feedback should be forward looking. Comment should be guiding, progressing and

Feedback should be more work for recipient than the donor.

Do you maximise your efforts to offer effective feedback? Ask yourself – in your teaching what proportion of your teaching feedback is acted upon and improved? 10%? 20%? 30%? 50%? Were you concerned by you own response?


Perhaps feedback is only part of the conundrum. Where is the responsibility for success? Attribution is key. The best learners believe it is down to them. Levels are not within a student’s control.

Getting Feedback Right is Difficult

Interesting feedback can ‘typically have eight outcomes, six are bad.’

This is simple slides emphasises just how challenging providing effective feedback is. It is nearly as difficult as setting the most appropriate activity to activate the learner, whilst ensuring that the learner believes they are in control and smart.

In case you were wondering

Assessment for Learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there (Broadfoot et al., 2002 pp. 2-3)

Assessment for learning is any assessment for which the first priority in its design and practice is to serve the purpose of promoting students’ learning. It thus differs from assessment designed primarily to serve the purposes of accountability, or of ranking, or of certifying competence. An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information that teachers and their students can use as feedback in assessing themselves and one another and in modifying the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. Such assessment becomes “formative assessment” when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs. (Black et al., 2004 p. 10)

Feedback should causing thinking.

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Planning with Middle Leaders in Mind

Given a fairly positive first core day, I was giving ‘planning’ more consideration that I usually would on a Monday afternoon. Specifically, when and how you learn to plan effectively. So, given the NCSL materials and the commentary from Maggie Swinnerton, this is a document I hope to share and get feedback on, from the colleagues I work with in Curriculum areas. Feel free to add, comment and reuse.

We often plan change with ready made planning steps. Not unlike those presented below (adapted from the NCSL Middle Leaders materials). More recently I have began to consider that we often overlook or anticipate the ‘change impact’ on you, the change agent.

Good Planning

  • Objectives
  • Actions
  • Responsibilities
  • Timescales
  • Resources
  • Measureable success criteria
  • Monitoring, evaluating and next steps
  • Review dates

Testing the Planning

Most plans fail because they are never tried or are implemented without any thought as to what might go wrong; Consider therefore;

  • What things might get in the way
  • What are the worst case scenarios
  • What you have ‘going for you’
  • Prioritises
  • Be realistic in your time expectations

Monitor, Evaluate, Review

  • Step back regularly and reflect on progress
  • Select a small number of key success indicators
  • Collect hard results and soft evidence (views, formal feedback)
  • Weigh the evidence and, if need be, carry out improvements

Remember your Vision

Your vision is not static, evolving with practice. When we change, we learn, how can that change process be included, or at least highlighted, as part of the implementation of the plan.

Clearly define the impact you are aiming to achieve. The evidence you aim to collect and evaluation processes.

The impact on the staff you are working with (both teaching and non-teaching) on students, parents, guardians and carers, the community, the governors.

Note to self; consider and reflect the impact implementing the plan will have on you, the change agent.

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Leadership Pathways Core Day 1

The day started early. iO have kindly decided to support Interactive Fiction platform Quest and together with Andy Goff and Alex Warren we are hurriedly drafting an introduction competition for teachers and educator with some fantastic prizes. More of that later…. A short drive to the De Vere Grand Harbour for Core Day 1 ‘Taking First Steps’ of the Leadership Pathways programme. A warm welcome from Maggie Swinnerton, coffee and pastries and of course the usual house keeping notifications. Why ‘Leadership Pathways.’ So far its been a remote experience, a 360 diagnostic, a brief coaching conversation with our Principal and the first of many online learning units. (Knowing that our Principal is fully supportive and committed to the coaching process). From the NCSL’s point of view, the clear emphasis is on being an ‘effective self-directed learner’ and ‘leader.’


  • Next steps
  • Inspiration (inspiring others)
  • Recognition
  • ‘Do we like Senior Leadership?’
  • Networking and x phase, x subject, x setting
  • Time for conversation with SLT
  • Time for reflection and self-change


  • Time pressure / WLB

An overview of the course, the year on Leadership Pathways, and conversation around the school impact study followed. Listening to our Primary colleagues, the size of the school, the infrastructure would appear more readily positioned to promote whole school impact, from ‘International Partnerships,’ to numerous whole-school subject focused programmes, eg literacy and numeracy. Our Secondary colleagues appear to be more hemmed in by their subject commitments and the perception of the size of the task – in particular the perception of the size of the task in secondary schools.

After a short coffee break, we were back to the task of defining the conditions for effective self-directed learning.

  • Modelling
  • OMG moments
  • Self awareness
  • Time for reflection
  • Security and trust
  • Honesty
  • Opportunities to try things out
  • Rescuing – disaster or crisis management
  • Resilience
  • Underpinning theory

This list led to an introduction to Boyatzis – Intentional Change Theory, a critical segway to uncovering one’s motivations for this process or course.

Intentional change is hard work and often fails because of lack of sufficient drive and the proper intrinsic motivation for it. This model of the Ideal self creates a comprehensive context within which a person (or at other fractals, a group or system) can formulate why they want to adapt, evolve, or maintain their current desired state.

This was the broker to the first set of philosophical, leadership questions as we attempt to define our moral purpose.

Who do I want to be?

Interestingly, my ‘who’ is first and foremost role of husband, father and friend. That aside, in the workplace I aim to demonstrate

As a teacher – to challenge and inspire young people, to role model a love of learning, to encourage and value risk-taking and the resilience to manage failure, to demonstrate a level of consistency that enables students to accurately describe me

As a leader – to demonstrate integrity, decisiveness, an analytical ability, approachable, imaginative, a willingness to give of oneself, an ability to face adversity, to evolve from a ‘doer’ to an ’empowerer’, to demonstrate a level of consistency that enables staff to accurately describe me (a might need to manage the order, and accept that the order will change.)

That’s sufficient self reflection for now thought the importance of that task is to measure the distance between my ideal self and my real self?

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