Black and Wiliam 1998 

4 year study by 2 leading Professors at King’s College London

Trawled world wide for effective classroom based research

Considered 700 studies, but chose only those with large effect sizes, classroom environment, and good design.


The effect size is how much better the Experimental Group was than the Control Group

The strategies they found:

had the greatest effect on the weakest learners

• could yield an effect size equivalent to a two grade leap at GCSE

Their study also found that established formative assessment practice is weak, tending to ape summative assessment practice.

We have weak practice in a key variable... a real opportunity!

Bill or Sid?

Which builder would you choose to build your new extension?

Sid’s High Grade Grafters

Quality Control System:

• Sid grades each worker’s efforts at the end of each day informing them of this grade

He praises work of above average  standard

He draws attention to errors and deficiencies

tickHe constructively criticises work which is not of an acceptable standard

tickHe moves on to the next day’s work to guarantee speedy completion

Bill’s Trouble Shooters

Quality Control System:

• Bill asks each worker to inspect their own work and fix errors and deficiencies as they go

He inspects work at the end of each day, praising work of an acceptable standard

He gets workers to put right any errors and deficiencies and checks these corrections have been made

tickHe constructively criticises work which is not of an acceptable standard

tickMoves on to the next day’s work to guarantee speedy completion  

Medal and Mission feedback


1.    Make the goals very clear: criteria are explained and illustrated with examples

2.   Ask the student for a self-assessment

(they will be helped if you give them criteria to

self-assess against, and exemplars.)

3. Give non-judgmental feedback:

·       accept the student’s present standard

·       avoid competition or comparison with others, instead let them compete with:

        the task, and

        with themselves, (i.e. with previous work)

Feedback should be

·       forward looking, positive, & constructive

·       task centred not ego centred

·       medal and mission

Feedback exercise   (graph)

1.  “Well done John, that’s brilliant! 9/10

2.  “Good graph Martha.  Nice and neat.  All the points are well plotted.”

3.  “Better than last week. Rather thick lines though!  Keep improvement up.”

4.  “Better standard.  A sharper pencil improves accuracy.  Keep improvement up!”

5.  “Good scales, good line, but some points missing!!  Nice and neat.”

6.  “Good standard. No title. neat writing.”                                                                  8/10

7. “Good axes, points and line." 

8.  “Well done, you handed it in! Please finish it now.  Keep this improvement up.”  

Learning Centred Feedback in Practice.                 Geoff Petty

Professors Ian Black and Dylan Wiliam of Kings College London reviewed many hundreds of research studies and showed that formative assessment has more effect on learning than any other single factor (including prior learning).*

The following summarises the advice suggested by Black and Wiliam, and then goes further to add some concrete suggestions for implementing their ideas.

Effective formative assessment has its most positive effect on low attainers, and few teachers adopt good practice.

General Advice.

Avoid grading.  Grades are consistently found to demotivate low attainers.  They also fail to challenge high attainers, often making them complacent.  So avoid giving a grade or mark except where absolutely necessary.  This is not easy to do on some courses.  However it is rarely necessary, and almost never desirable, to grade every piece of work.

Use self-assessment: Ask students to self-assess, providing them with self-assessment criteria or helping them to develop their own.  See examples below.  Self-assessment has been shown to double attainment if it is used very frequently.  It encourages the reflective habit of mind essential for improvement, ensures students take responsibility for their own learning, focusses attention on criteria for success, and increases effort and persistence.  It should be followed by action planning and the action plan points should be followed up, it then generates excellent evidence for the Key Skill ‘Improve Own Learning and Performance’.

Give learning-centred feedback  “Give a medal and a mission”

Accept the student’s present attainment however low, without blame or disapproval.

Set about improving this by giving a:

Medal for what the student can do or has done well.  Effort persistence and other good study habits can be included in the criteria.

Mission:  what the student needs to do to improve.  This can be an improvement to the existing work, or a target (feed-forward task) for the next piece of work.

Focus your feedback on the following:

Tasks: e.g. provide positive comments on the completion of tasks, strengths, criterion-referenced achievement etc.  If teachers set mastery tasks this provides opportunities to give positive feedback to the very lowest attainers.

  • Meeting personal targets.  If students are encouraged to self-assess and to set themselves targets for improvement, then the teacher can comment on a student’s progress towards these targets.

    Improvements effected by the student can be positively commented on.

    Opportunities for improvement and constructive criticism can be given.

    Feedback proformas can help teachers give such feedback in practice, examples are shown below.  In each case they need to be larger than shown to allow space for writing.

    Use the ‘praise sandwich’  That is: praise; constructive criticism; then praise again.  

    Use Mastery Learning.  This is a series of easy tests on key material set every four or six weeks, with retests for those students who do not pass.  It takes time to set this up, but it works very well.   See the ‘Mastery Learning’ chapter in Teaching Today.

    Use formative teaching methods that ‘find faults, fix, and and follow up’ see the handout called ‘formative teaching methods’ which  you can download from  These ideas were subsequent to the research review but are clearly linked with it.

    Feedback Proformas

    Why not give assignments, homeworks, classwork etc with a feedback proforma like these, (only with more space).  This helps the teacher give learning-focussed rather than grading-focussed feedback.  Such proformas are not new, but are under-used.  Make sure they are bigger than shown to allow space for writing.

    Generic assessment criteria

    Here, as an example, is a set of negotiated criteria used to assess essays.  Any generic skill could be developed in the same way, e.g. electronic circuit design, painting, lab report writing, etc.

    Ask students for criteria first.  They will come up with most of them, and will then really ‘own’ them.  Follow this with a discussion on which criteria really count and why.  This is very helpful to clarify good practice and your expectations. Each criterion needs to be discussed, explained, and justified to the class. (I do not pretend that the criteria below are the only, or the best criteria for essay writing, you must decide your own!)

    Criteria are then used repeatedly, perhaps for every essay written on the course.  Students hand in the work already self-assessed, then the teacher assesses against the same criteria.  Ideally no grade is awarded, or if it is, it is given some weeks after this informative feedback.  Black and Wiliam’s research review shows that if you grade students pay attention only to this, and don’t read your feedback.

    Ruth Beard in “Teaching in Higher Education” claims that such generic criteria greatly improve importance over a course even without self-assessment.  Black and Wiliam showed that self-assessment and informative feedback were amongst the most important things a teacher did.

    The following grids should all be much bigger in practice, to allow more space for comments.


    * Black and Wiliam (1998) “Assessment and Classroom Learning” in the journal Assessment in Education.

    **See separate handout for explanation on mastery tasks

    read also “Inside the black box” at:


    Essay writing assessment proforma

    Title:                                                                     Name:



    Teacher assessment

    Did you relate each of your arguments to the essay question?


    Did you give arguments both ‘for’ and ‘against’ both:

    The proposition in the essay question?

    Any major points or conclusions you made?


    Did you give enough evidence, examples, and illustrations for each of your arguments?


    Did you prioritise the arguments for and against, and evaluate them?


    Did you draw a justified conclusion related directly to the essay title?


    Main strengths

    Improvements needed for this


    Targets for the next essay

    Self assessed target:


    Maths Assessment

    Exercise:                                             Name:

    Assessment criteria
    Teacher, peer, or self-assessment

    Methods: aim to make these appropriate, and as simple or elegant as possible.


    Methods justified

    The principles or formulae used are made clear


    Working: aim to make working clear; complete; easy to follow; stating principles or formulae used where necessary.


    Care taken: aim to check your work for errors, and present work neatly.


    Main strengths



    It’s okay if you don’t fully understand a concept first time, learning takes time.

    If this work is graded, aim to beat your own record, not someone else’s

    What counts is whether you understand the problem and solution, not whether you made any silly slips

    If you got something wrong that’s fine.  It’s how we learn. 

    You will learn from mistakes if you find out how to do it without mistakes next time, and really understand this.

    Corrective work on this exercise

    (Find someone with an A for …….. and ask them to show and explain their work.)

    Target for your next piece of work


    Freely based on ‘Using Assessment to Raise Achievement in Mathematics’ QCA Nov 2001



    Opportunities for Development


    General Comments


    Below are examples of assignment-specific assessment proformas:

    Assessment Criteria 

    Strengths and development

    Plan for improving Health                                      and


    I like your ideas on diet exercise and entertainment.  Most points well covered.

    A well designed table! Some rest would help. Read assignment brief carefully!                                                

    Purpose for this plan                                      

    You explain this well referring to evidence.  Quite the best bit of your assignment.

    General Comments. 

    I notice some of your work is neater, keep this up.

    Student’s goals:

    Be better at checking my spelling


    You have definitely achieved an improvement here Simon.


    Student assessment

    Teacher assessment

    A diagram of the heart:

    accurate, neat, and

    correctly labelled


    Explanation of how the

    heart works:

    valve sequence, and bloodflow.


    General comments


    Vocational Skills – Care

    Self-assessment of key criteria for written work

    Below is a list of some of the most important skills needed when completing any written tasks.  These skills will help you achieve your Care Modules and will also help you in the future whenever you need to find out information for yourself and present it well.

    Please think about each skill carefully and assess how well you think you do.  Then score each one as follows

    Red:                 Needs improving

    Amber:             Average/okay

    Green:              good.





    Teacher assessment

    Neat writing


    Correct spelling


    Using paragraphs


    Using only relevant information


    Writing in your own words


    Using the library


    Using computers and the internet


    Keeping a record of sources of information eg. books, internet sites, etc.


    Finding pictures, articles, leaflets, etc to add interest to your work


    Handing work in on time


    Which of these skills do you need to improve most?

    Learning Target for next piece of work:

    Assessment of Writing Skills

    Please think about each skill carefully and assess how well you think you do.  Then score each one as follows. Please hand in your plan with your finished work.


    Self Assessment




    I think

    I did

    I did

    Teacher Assessment



    Used sentences well


    Used paragraphs well


    Used verbs well


    Proof read


    Used capital letters well


    Used full stops and commas well






    Appropriate style


    Answered the question


    Good conclusion