How assessment motivates learning

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Transforming Writing Interim Evaluation Report November 2012 Jonathan Rooke University of Winchester Summary of Findings 1. Children made good progress in writing attainment 2. Most children in each year group made progress in writing attainment of at least 4 APS during the research project 3. Boys and girls made similar progress in their writing attainment 4. Children for whom English is an additional language and children who received free school meals made similar progress in their writing attainment to other children 5. Children’s progress in their writing attainment was not affected by whether they began the year at, below or above age-related expectation 6. Key Stage 2 children participating in the Transforming Writing project made better progress in their writing attainment compared to the national average 7. Some small difference was made to children’s perception of how hard they found writing 8. There was an increase in the number of children who said they enjoyed writing 9. There was an increase in the number of children who perceived themselves as good writers 10. There was an increase in the number of children who said they enjoyed talking about writing 11. There was an increase in the number of children who thought talking about writing helped them to write 12. Teachers used a wide range of strategies to develop children’s independent use of formative assessment and needed a model of writing that facilitates children’s guided experimentation with talk about their own and each other’s writing 13. Extended talk and collaborative language around the genre of writing before children start writing provides a rich resource for children to revisit and from which to draw during all stages of their writing. It supports a type of talk that is explicit and targeted, and it enables teachers to assess children’s writing and intervene as the children’s learning is taking place. It allows children to independently assess their own and others’ writing and learn from one another 14. When talking about assessment of writing, teachers were modelling for children a ‘voice’ for thinking about writing. They were insistent that modelling was the most significant strategy they used to develop children’s talk about writing and the quality of writing. The voice they modelled was shaping the same voice that children have in their own heads when they are writing. When teachers are modelling, what they are modelling is how children should think about writing. Thinking about writing is part of assessment 15. Flexible approaches to planning were essential as teachers used formative assessment to target and rapidly respond to children’s emerging needs 16. Teachers needed a clear vision of how they want their children to progress in talk to ensure effective formative assessment of writing. Teachers expressed this vision as children being increasingly able to unpick how and why their writing © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 6 of 73 works, knowing what to do to improve it and having an increasing awareness of the impact and effect of their writing on the reader 17. The co-constructed writing goals (the ‘toolkit’) were the pivot around which children’s talk about their own writing took place. Transforming Writing teachers frequently refer to the writing goals or toolkit as a means of unlocking and unleashing assessment of writing. They provide a ‘North Star’ around which children’s assessment talk about their own writing is navigated 18. Children’s talk about writing improves in advance of children actually utilising what has been talked about in their own writing 19. Children are more able to comment critically on other children’s writing than on their own writing 20. Transforming Writing teachers believed there was a mutually reinforcing positive relationship between children’s comprehension talk about books and their assessment talk about their own writing. Now, as well as the reader being in the writer, the writer is in the reader 21. Written assessment feedback can be written in such a way that it ‘shapes’ the way children thought about their writing processes 22. Teachers felt it was essential to develop learning environments where children were without fear of peers’ judgements and were happy to publicly reveal and work on improvements in their own writing 23. Children need to be actively involved in co-constructing their own success criteria and learning intentions 24. Children need carefully scaffolded learning experiences so that they can assimilate practices and understanding of formative assessment and see for themselves how it benefits progress in their writing 25. Children need confident and credible teachers © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 7 of 73 Introduction Transforming Writing is a two-year action research project, sponsored by Esmée Fairbairn, which aims to develop a model for the teaching and learning of writing that more fully incorporates a focus on embedded formative assessment. In the first year of the project, the 12 participating schools developed a model of writing underpinned by Talk for Writing, an approach developed by Pie Corbett and Julia Strong (see Appendix 1). This interim report evaluates to what extent the model of writing developed by the teachers during the first year of research impacts on children’s writing in terms of attainment, confidence and engagement. The evidence so far suggests that the focused use of formative assessment by teachers with children and by children with peers can make a major difference to children’s writing progress in terms of attainment, engagement and confidence. This report identifies some of the successful classroom approaches to embedded formative assessment in writing teachers developed in the first year of the research project. The report suggests that during Transforming Writing research, teachers became evaluators and activators in the sense that Hattie (2012) proposes (see Appendix 2). Teacher interviews and reflections reveal that teachers were evaluating the effect their teaching had on the children’s learning then using the powerful feedback that formative assessment provided to rapidly respond and adjust teaching of writing. Teachers saw their key role as evaluating their effect on children’s learning of writing and then responding by implementing deliberate and focused interventions. Aims The principle aim of the project is to develop a powerful, well-researched and evaluated model of effective practice which underpins the teaching and learning of writing with formative assessment at its heart. Specific research questions are: • Which teaching and learning approaches to formative assessment worked and why, and with which children in what contexts? • Which skills and knowledge did the teachers need and how were they best acquired? • What substantive difference was made to children’s confidence, engagement and articulation of their writing processes? • How did collaborative talk support the children’s development and the teacher’s role? Phases The project has two phases. In the first phase, 2011/12 project schools developed and evaluated a model of writing practice with embedded formative assessment. In the second phase, 2012/13, teachers will develop this writing practice by disseminating the model across the whole school and then develop a model of CPD to enable project schools to transfer this practice to other schools. © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 8 of 73 Rationale Transforming Writing is a response to the growing awareness that formative assessment must sit at the heart of the writing process in primary schools. Recent research and reports indicate that this is timely and appropriate because of perceived inadequacies of formative assessment generally and in writing in particular. The research acknowledges the complex interrelationship between talk, reading and writing and allows for productive crossovers between children’s writing processes, feedback, links to direct teaching of writing (shared and guided writing) and the incorporation of the child’s voice in the criteria related dialogues. Assessment that is not feeding forward into planning from which pupils can effectively benefit has been identified as an area in need of development in schools by Ofsted (2009) in their survey of English and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales (2009). Evidence emerged of “learning objectives that described tasks rather than learning and which therefore did not enable pupils to review their own learning” (Ofsted 2009, p. 25). In addition, “The use of assessment to plan improvements in writing is not as effective as the use of assessment 1 information to improve reading” (Ofsted p. 6) . The consequence of marking that focuses on degrees of effort or pupils’ weaknesses without guidance on how to improve is demoralising. Transforming Writing teachers are developing classroom approaches that will embed effective formative assessment at the centre of children’s experience of learning to write. While there are challenges to implementation, there is a growing consensus regarding what is effective formative assessment. Ofsted recommends that formative assessment should actively involve pupils and help them to clearly understand how to improve their work (Ofsted, 2009). Enabling teachers to implement effective formative assessment procedures is a challenge. Sachs investigated teachers’ perceptions of formative assessment and barriers to its more widespread use: “Though worthwhile, the further development of formative assessment practices in schools may be complex and difficult. Constructing a set of recommendations is relatively straightforward, but if teachers are to achieve more than ‘lip service’ to 2 them, support is needed to effect real and lasting change” (Sach, 2010 p16) . Transforming Writing seeks to find some workable solutions to this challenge. One challenge facing teachers is changing the classroom environment to accommodate formative assessment in writing. Webb and Jones’ study shows formative assessment practices can give rise to positive characteristics of classroom culture including: • learning orientation rather than performance orientation • an acceptance that mistakes and getting it wrong are an essential part of learning 1 Best practice in the reading and writing of pupils aged five to seven years old. Publisher: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales, 2009 _five_to_seven_years.pdf 2 Sach, E (2010) Teachers and testing: An investigation into teachers’ perceptions of formative assessment. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Warwick, 1-4 September 2010, pp. 18. © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 9 of 73 • mutual support for each other’s learning; willingness to give and receive criticism; willingness to take risks in trying new ideas • a shared language of assessment and feedback; and • an emphasis on dialogue and exploratory talk to support thinking (Webb and 3 Jones, 2009) . 4 Hodgeson and Pyle (2010) advocate the need for teachers to create a classroom where a co-constructivist, non-threatening environment frees children to express their ideas and misconceptions and enables the teacher to work out what children do and don’t know. Underpinning this environment is talk, questioning, feedback and self and peer assessment. Wolfe and Alexander’s review of dialogic teaching suggests exploratory talk, argumentation and dialogue support high-level thinking through engaging teachers and pupils in co-construction of knowledge; assessment for learning is regarded as the assessment most significant to children (Wolfe and 5 Alexander, 2008) . Transforming Writing teachers have identified effective classroom practices which have facilitated these characteristics and developed children’s dialogue that supports formative assessment of writing. 3 Webb, M and Jones, J (2009) Exploring tensions in developing assessment for learning Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice Vol. 16, No. 2, July 2009, 165–184 4 Hodgson, C and Pyle. K (2010) A literature review of assessment for learning. National Foundation for Educational Research, 2010, pp. 34. 5 Wolfe, S and Alexander, R.(2008) Argumentation and dialogic teaching: Alternative pedagogies for a changing world. © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 10 of 73 Procedure Sample A sample 12 primary schools were selected from mostly disadvantaged areas. Two teachers from each school were nominated by the headteacher to take part in the Transforming Writing project: 21 Key Stage 2 teachers and three Key Stage 1 teachers. Each teacher had previously been engaged with Talk for Writing at a significant level and had skills in talking about writing. The schools were selected according to the following criteria: • Familiarity with and expertise in Talk for Writing • Participation in relevant research projects e.g. Teachers and TAs as Writers • High standards of school leadership • High standards of leadership in English • High-quality Ofsted reports • Situated in areas of social challenge identified by the proportion of children entitled to free school meals Action Research Schools were visited in June/July 2011 by the research team to clarify the participating teachers’ role as action researchers during the action research project. Action research is traditionally defined as undertaking the following stages: acting and then observing what happens following the change; reflecting on these 6 processes and consequences; then planning further action (Newby 2010 pp 61-64) . Teachers understood that reflection is of paramount importance and that fundamentally, action research can be seen as a reflective practice (McIntosh, 7 2010) . Exploratory Workshops Exploratory workshops, led by Pie Corbett and Julia Strong, facilitated teachers‘ collaborative development of an understanding of embedding formative assessment practices in the writing process. The four workshops, in part informed by the work on formative assessment by Dylan Wiliam and Shirley Clarke, were structured around: classroom culture, analysis and discussion of what excellence looks like and ongoing feedback, and evaluation and development of critical thinking and reflection as writers. Teachers were invited to experiment with formative assessment techniques within the framework of Talk for Writing. Between workshops teachers experimented with embedded formative assessment in their classrooms and reflected on the differences made to teaching and learning of writing. In workshops, teachers collaborated with their professional peers to critically reflect on this classroom experience. To support teachers’ critical reflection on embedding formative assessment in the writing process, they collected the following data: video sequences of children and teachers engaging in dialogue about formative assessment of writing, a written analysis of the 3-5 minute video sequence and a reflective journal of about 500 6 Newby, P. (2010) Research Methods for Education Pearson Education Limited: Edinburgh 7 McIntosh, P. (2010) Action Research and Reflective Practice Oxon: Routledge © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 11 of 73 words. In addition, in September 2011 and July 2012, pupils completed questionnaires about their perceptions of writing while participating teachers completed questionnaires about their teaching practices in writing and understanding of embedding formative assessment in writing. 16 teachers were interviewed in pairs at their school in July 2012 in order to reflect in greater depth on what they had learned about embedding formative assessment in writing during the academic year. Reflective journals and some analysis of video sequences of dialogic talk about assessment of writing informed the professional discussion of each workshop and influenced the agreed focus of classroom interventions following each workshop. Workshop 1 (September 2011): 24 teachers and the headteachers of each school attended the first workshop in September 2011. In this first workshop they experienced activities that help children read-as-a-writer and co-construct meaningful sets of criteria to inform different types of writing (a ‘writing toolkit’ (see appendices)). Following this workshop, teachers focused in their classrooms on facilitating joint construction of success criteria with their pupils. Workshop 2 (November 2011): Held at Penn Wood Primary School, Slough, 24 attending teachers fed back and discussed the reflections from their action research in their classrooms. Focus then shifted to developing talk about collaborative formative assessment in writing during whole class and guided group writing contexts. Teachers observed Pie Corbett teaching writing to Year 5 children and leading formative assessment of writing with the whole class. Following this workshop, teachers focused in their classrooms on developing children’s talk about assessment of writing and setting targets that informed their own improvement. Workshop 3 (March 2012): 24 teachers attended and critically reflected in groups on the outcomes of their action research. Successful techniques were recorded and tabulated in a planning structure for writing (see grid below, Embedding Formative Assessment in Writing: A model developed by Transforming Writing teachers during Workshop 3). Teachers critically reflected on the challenges and opportunities these approaches afforded for embedding formative assessment in the process of writing in their classroom. Following this workshop, teachers focused in their classrooms on child and teacher initiated group teaching of writing based on children’s own assessment of their writing. Workshop 4 (July 2012): 24 teachers and members of the steering committee attended and teachers presented case studies of their pupils’ use of formative assessment and their progress in writing. Teachers reflected critically on reflections from action research in their classrooms. A steering committee met in July 2011 and December 2012 to guide and influence the direction of the project. Between workshops, research newsletters were circulated with some of the key themes and insights teachers had brought to the workshops. Teachers were contacted by telephone between the workshops to discuss their progress with members of the research team. © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 12 of 73 Evaluation Methodology Data Collection Techniques The report draws on a range of data: children’s writing perception surveys; teachers’ perception surveys; reflective journals; interviews with participating teachers and attainment progress of participating children. 1. Children’s writing perception surveys Teachers conducted a writing perception survey with each of their six focus children at the beginning and end of Phase 1. The focus children included children who began Phase 1 working at, below and above age-related expectation in writing. The survey provided both quantitative and qualitative data. The purpose was to identify any changes in children’s perception of their own confidence and their level of engagement with writing as a consequence of embedding formative assessment in writing. 2. Reflective journals Teachers were asked to submit four reflective journal entries, one at each workshop. The journals were structured around the four key research questions. In addition, teachers were encouraged to keep personal classroom-based reflective journals that they could make notes in as relevant events occurred and this would inform the submitted journal entry. Reflective journals were intended to reveal teachers’ developing understandings about their own practice and ‘catch’ their understandings of what aspects of their practice were successful in promoting formative assessment and children’s progress in writing attainment. It was an attempt to address the pedagogical underpinnings of their practice and provide a record of transitions in their own thinking. 3. Interviews with teachers Teachers were interviewed in pairs in June and July 2012. Eight out of 12 schools were visited and16 teachers were interviewed. The interviews were based upon analysis of the reflective journals and a set of questions provided a grounded terrain across which open and exploratory discussion with the teachers could take place. Aspects of their reflections were expanded upon to clarify and extend understanding. Gaps in research data were addressed in the interviews and these gaps opened and closed as the research was collated and consequently, the direction and content of the interviews shifted in response to this. The interviewer spoke with both teachers at once. Sometimes, headteachers were included in the interview. These interviews took on the form of professional discussions and provided a site for building teachers’ metacognition of their own practice as well as informing and consolidating the research report. 4. Attainment progress of children Children’s progress in writing levels from September 2011 to July 2012 was measured and differences in sublevels and average point score recorded. These were intended to reveal any progress in attainment sublevels and average points score using Assessing Pupil Progress assessment procedures which were commonly used in the participating schools. Expected progress is defined by the government as two National Curriculum levels of progress between Key Stages 1 and 2. Consequently, schools generally aim for at least one sublevel progress each © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 13 of 73 year which is equivalent to two average points and hope children achieve two sublevels progress each year which is equivalent to four average points progress. It was intended that the gathering of this attainment information would emerge from existing assessment procedures in the school recorded by teachers for school tracking purposes rather than any separate assessment specifically for the project. Any difference between September and July scores attained by the participating children may not have been solely due to an emphasis on assessment of writing but is likely also to be the consequence of a range of factors operating in the school and the specific classroom. 5. Video of assessment talk episodes Teachers were asked to submit four filmed recordings of writing dialogue exchanges between teacher and pupils or between pupils themselves. Each recording is between three and five minutes in duration and was collected at each workshop. Teachers themselves identified the episode of talk about writing to submit. The videos were intended to offer opportunities for analysis of the quality of collaborative talk during episodes of talk about writing that had assessment of writing at their heart. Teachers transcribed each filmed episode of writing dialogue exchanges and submitted these with their recording at each writing workshop. Teachers offered some comments about the quality and content of their interactions with children and the children’s interactions with each other. Recordings varied in quality and a selection of schools was chosen for coded analysis. The results of this analysis will be presented in the final report. A sample is attached to this report (see appendices). 6. Teachers’ perception surveys Each teacher submitted a perception survey reflecting on their own practice and attitudes to writing in their classroom at the beginning and at the end of Phase 1. The purpose is to identify if and how teachers’ perceptions of their own use of assessment in writing had changed as well as their understanding of their role in the writing process in relation to the children. © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 14 of 73 Findings: 12 Classroom Approaches Teachers used a range of teaching and learning approaches in the classroom to embed formative assessment in the children’s learning of writing. 1. Teachers used a variety of marking techniques to engage children in assessment 2. Teachers and children collaboratively constructed writing goals to guide assessment 3. Teachers collected and displayed knowledge about writing for children to use for assessment 4. Teachers created dialogic spaces for children to collaboratively talk about and assess their writing 5. Teachers modelled how writers talk and think when assessing their own writing 6. Teachers found shared reading comprehension and children’s assessment of their own writing were mutually supportive 7. Teachers created safe learning environments for children to collaboratively assess their own writing 8. Teachers had a clear sense of how children’s assessment talk about writing should progress 9. Teachers used flexible and responsive planning 10. Teachers used mini writing lessons to rapidly respond to formative assessment 11. Teachers used guided writing lessons to rapidly respond to formative assessment 12. Teachers’ confidence and credibility supported children’s formative assessment of writing These approaches were summarised and condensed into a grid by participating teachers during Workshop 3. The grid, which is reproduced below, is called The Transforming Writing Model for Formative Assessment. The page numbers printed in the fourth column of the grid identify where some further detail about the approach can be found in this report. The project team drew upon a wide range of already existing good practices. These were modified and developed during the classroom research into approaches that supported embedding formative assessment of writing in a way that promoted children’s progress and enjoyment. A more comprehensive report on each of these 12 classroom approaches can be found on page 19. © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 15 of 73 The Transforming Writing Model for Formative Assessment Objective 1: What approaches best help children to internalise the ingredients? Key underlying process Essential features of this Useful related Classroom in chronological order techniques/ approach equipment 1. Providing a Approach 6 • Something that will interest • Drama motivating stimulus the children and facilitate understanding 2. Selecting the right exemplar text • Building in the appropriate vocabulary, sentence structure and text features that children need to make progress 3. Learning/internalising • Story map – making • Using icons to the text orally learning visible help recall text • Exemplar text • Boxing up 4. Progressively co- Approaches 2 & 3 • Making learning visible • Washing line constructing features • Discussing the features of toolkit • Comparing texts 5. Shared and guided • Boxing up • Writing journals Approaches 5 & 7 writing focusing on • Making learning visible • Washing line the key vocabulary, sentence and text • Modelling how to talk about features that the the ingredients children need to make • Involving the children in progress discussing the ideas • ‘Magpieing’ good ideas • Writing your own version 6. Providing a range of Approach 4 • Warming up tune of text • Snowballing focused talk activities pairs opportunities to • Comparing texts • Cloze strengthen passages understanding, • Raiding the reading practise skills and • Role play • Response partner build in progress • Visiting • Group reflection professor • Whole class feedback – • Mobile phone essential that text visible • Sorting and sequencing © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 16 of 73 Objective 2: What approaches best help children to talk about writing? Key underlying process Essential features of this Useful related Classroom in chronological order techniques/ approach equipment i.e. stage 1 leads to stage 2 etc 1. Creating a learning • Okay to change mind • Speaking Approaches 2, environment that 4 & 7 frames • All views valid encourages focused • Using visualiser talk in order to • Being a good listener develop the inner (teacher as well as • Snowballing judge within each children) partner work child to help pupils • Talking partners/small read and write in a group work discriminating fashion • Strategies to involve all students 2. Model how to talk Approaches 2, • Toolkit provides shared about writing 3 & 5 framework for understanding • Shared writing • Boxing up 3. Provide lots of Approach 2 • Toolkit • Washing line opportunities to • Making learning visible • Visualiser/some practise means of • Book talk projecting text • Compare • Does it work? • Response partner • Raiding the reading • Warming up the tune of the text activities © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 17 of 73 Objective 3: What approaches best help children know how to improve and be supported in that improvement Key underlying process Essential features of this Useful related Classroom in chronological order techniques/ approach equipment i.e. stage 1 leads to stage 2. 1. Marking and Approaches 1, • Toolkit as reference point • Pink for feedback with - source of shared progress; green 2 & 3 purpose of creating understanding for growth reflective dialogue • Visual display to support • Post-it notes to • Peer (helping pupils understanding indicate understand what will ingredients • Providing time to act on help them move initial feedback • Children forward) comment on • Teacher (enabling own work first teacher to know which aspects to focus on to move the children forward) • Self (to develop the inner judge so can identify own strengths and weaknesses) 2. Targeted teaching to Approaches 8, • Flexible planning • Polishing pens model how to 9 & 11 • Shared writing to illustrate improve in light of key points identified marking • Visual display of additional teaching focus • Toolkit – reflect on, did it work? • Children motivated by knowing final work will be published • Mini lessons and/or guided writing to rectify identified weaknesses • Providing time to act on initial feedback and polish work 3. Co-construct Approaches 1 • Toolkit as reference point individual targets – & 2 next small steps based on final feedback 4. Curriculum planned Approaches 1 so have & 9 opportunities to practise and develop skills in a range of contexts © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 18 of 73 Explanation of the 12 Classroom Approaches 1. Teachers used a variety of marking techniques to engage children in assessment Teachers used a range of techniques to engage children with the marking that involved them in collaborative assessment of their own and each other’s writing. The six techniques described here supported children’s active response to assessment as well as initiation of assessment. The teachers’ intention was that these in turn would empower children to develop their own capacity and skills to formatively assess their own writing. (1) Children initiating the teacher assessment of their own writing Children wrote assessments of their own writing at the end of their passage of writing identifying which parts they felt worked best and which parts they felt needed further work. Teachers then responded to this. Such an approach offers children a ‘critical point of communication’ with the teacher. It inverts the practice of the teacher evaluating writing and doing something to the writing that the child must respond to. Here, children evaluate their own writing first, identify an aspect which they feel needs addressing and the teacher then responds. This supports teachers’ formative assessment processes because it reveals the child’s priorities, and the level of complexity in writing at which children believe they can work. Teachers felt that requiring children to provide a written response to their own writing can elicit a higher quality assessment response than a verbal response. “Some occasions we expect just written responses to their writing. These tend to be better quality than talking partner discussions. Writing it seems to focus the quality of the response.” Source: teacher (2) Peer marking During peer marking, children had to give a written response about their partner’s writing. Teachers believed this helped them to overcome the challenge of monitoring and responding to many simultaneous peer assessment exchanges, and it required the children to be focused on the assessment of their peer’s writing. It lent some permanence to the impermanent assessment conversations the children have together. “It helps me to see who knows what a good bit of writing should be like and if they know where improvements should be made. I’ve been really impressed with how some have worked out as they have been quite specific. I think this works because they get to be teacher.” Source: teacher (3) Teacher writing a personal written response to children’s composition Teachers said it was important to write a personal response to the children’s composition. In order to focus children on compositional skills and the impact their writing may have on the reader, one school included as part of marking response, a written comment by the teacher describing the way the writing made the teacher feel and identifying for them how they had achieved that effect. © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 19 of 73 “This part makes me want to focus on what happens next.” “This part is scary because you have used this word.” Source: teacher Teachers said their written assessment was best when it subsequently included a next steps ‘moving on’ comment and required the child to respond before continuing. Detailed written marking of assessment was identified as ‘extremely’ time consuming, and in some ways disheartening, because children did not always respond to the marking in subsequent pieces of writing. (4) Building in sufficient time for children to actively respond to marking Teachers thought that written feedback was most effective when children had time at the end or beginning of a lesson in which to respond and act on the written feedback. Schools used extended plenaries the day after marking in which children could respond. One school ensured children had a response task to their writing to do at the start of the day. (5) Children using highlighters Highlighters used within a collaboratively constructed three-colour-code supported formative assessment and were used by children individually or collaboratively to locate and identify aspects of writing that went well or needed improvement. These were used by peer partners, with teachers or by children independently in self- assessment. Teachers said highlighting motivates children because they see their own good writing explicitly identified. It clearly identifies sites for revision and focuses children on analysing segments of their own writing which is at the heart of the revision process. It supported peer and collaborative talk and reduced teachers’ marking load. (6) Arrows to focus assessment talk Teachers said it was effective when children used stick-on arrows in their writing to identify their use of the collaboratively agreed writing goals (the toolkits) for the genre they were writing. The arrows helped children see and assess their own and their peers’ writing. The arrows indicated the focus for the peer talk and helped them to talk at length. Using arrows and talking around them is a skill that children have to be explicitly taught. Using arrows to support assessment talk may take a whole lesson. The procedure used by teachers was (1) children write arrows with reference to the writing goals (toolkit) at the start of the plenary, after they have written (2) children then share their writing with a partner (3) the teacher asks children to focus on specific aspects, depending on the focus of the lesson and (4) they compare and assess their use of writing goals (toolkit) with each other. Teacher 1: “Then they discuss, ‘Well, you’ve done that. It’s good but I’ve done it like this. What do you think?’ And then they discuss.” Teacher 2: “(They say) ’I wrote this question to make them really think’ and so they might compare their own ones.” Teacher 1: “and explain their choices.” Teacher 2: “This is a whole lesson in the first instance. It’s lessons and not just added on to the plenary. They need to be taught that…we have to spend time on that to get the children doing that well enough for it to be worthwhile.” Source: teachers © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 20 of 73 2. Teachers and children collaboratively constructed writing goals to guide assessment Teachers actively involved children in developing their own writing goals (frequently referred to as language features, success criteria in schools). This is in contrast to teachers presenting a ready-made list of writing goals to children and then teaching them how to use it. Transforming Writing teachers usually established the writing goals (the toolkit) a little way into the sequence of lessons so that children could identify for themselves what they needed to learn. Skilfully, teachers enabled children to write the writing goals as they emerged through a variety of learning contexts e.g. drama, shared reading of either a professionally written text or one written by the teachers themselves. To facilitate this more subtle and nuanced way of collaboratively evolving writing goals against which children can formatively assess their own and each other’s writing, teachers used the Talk for Writing technique of ‘writing toolkits’. A writing toolkit is collaboratively co-constructed with children and provides lists of features of language for children to include in their own writing and guidance for much of the children’s formative assessment. The toolkit can be applied to any genre of writing. Writing toolkits are flexible and they can be adjusted and modified as the children are progressing through the sequence of writing lessons in response to formative assessment of writing. Teachers used both a general writing toolkit that could be applied to any genre of writing and a writing toolkit that was specific to the genre of writing they were learning in the current lesson sequence. Teachers said writing toolkits supported children’s formative assessment when they were: • collectively compiled – the children and teachers wrote them together using analysis of extracts of writing to identify key language components children will use in their own writing • colour-coded – children could see each specific language feature and technique (or ‘writing tool’) in a different colour on the collaboratively constructed class toolkit poster. When they came to independently assessing their own or a peer’s writing this helped them to establish how much of the toolkit they had used successfully • Referring to the effect on the reader and how the child writer can achieve that effect • Not used only as ‘tick lists,’ but issues of quality were discussed. Teachers were assessing how well the language feature was used, rather than simply, if the language feature was used in a reductive way. In this way children were asked to evaluate ‘open’ writing goals that required quality judgements about how far they had learned to use the writing tool (language feature or technique) “Sometimes children see it (toolkit) as a ‘tick off’ what you have done activity rather than thinking about have I/they done that well?” Source: teacher “The children are now talking about what makes a good piece of writing in relation to the reader and what it tells them rather than the tools they have used.” Source: teacher © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 21 of 73 Teachers said that writing toolkits supported ‘deeper’ teaching and learning than lists of success criteria they had previously used. Writing toolkits, accompanied by collaborative analysis of texts and collaborative assessment of children’s writing, can help children to develop qualitative assessment of ‘how well’ a ‘tool’ or language feature has been used and the effect on the reader. Evolving toolkits were more appropriate for supporting and assessing a generative process like writing because of the way they facilitate children assessing quality and scaffolding children’s learning so they can shape and consolidate their own writing processes on their own. © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 22 of 73 3. Teachers collected and displayed knowledge about writing for children to use for assessment Many lessons involved the teacher and children writing together. They wrote lists of vocabulary, writing goals (toolkits), mood graphs, collaborative compositions in shared writing, plans and storymaps. These were written on large sheets of paper and then, as they were written each lesson, they were displayed for the children on washing lines – taut lengths of string, stretched across the sides of the classroom. These ‘washing lines’ served at least two purposes. First, washing lines act as collectively constructed notes for children to refer to and modify while they are composing on their own. Writing is a complex process requiring the simultaneous orchestration of composition and transcription processes. This places a high demand on young writers’ working memory. The washing lines provide reminders and resources e.g. vocabulary, sentence types, sentence starters, guidance on planning to lighten the cognitive load, and help them write more effectively until they have internalised them for themselves and they more automatically inform their composition choices. For teachers it was a way of providing both a scaffold for writing and handing over writing skills and ways of thinking about writing to the children, so they can use the skills more independently. “We are also keen for the children to become familiar with the washing line, using it for planning and resources. We have found it a great way to share the whole class guided and shared writing material.” Source: teacher Second, washing lines act as instant, easily accessible supports for children’s self-assessment or peer assessment. One teacher expressed this use of washing lines as assisting the handover of skills and ways of thinking about writing as helping children arrive at the point where it is: “… inside their head. They don’t need it on the wall. They can see it on the wall in their head.” Source: teacher © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 23 of 73 4. Teachers created dialogic spaces for children to collaboratively talk about and assess their writing Teachers frequently required children to display their writing to the whole class, and then developed a whole class discussion that collectively assessed its quality. Teachers believed this to be a powerful way of teaching children both how to assess writing and how to talk about writing with a focus on assessment. It was motivating. Children were curious to know what other children had written and were mostly keen to have their own writing evaluated and assessed by their peers. They wanted to engage with their peers in a dialogue about the quality of their writing and teachers believed it motivated them to think about how they were using the writing goals (toolkit) and the effect their choices would have on the audience. To facilitate this whole class dialogue, a visualiser was used (kindly supplied by TTS). These devices are ubiquitous in primary schools, and enable a teacher to place a child’s writing beneath the lens and throw an enlarged image of it on the whiteboard to provide a focal point for class analysis and assessment. Teachers have the flexibility to create this whole class dialogic space for assessment talk at any point in the sequence of lessons e.g. planning, first draft, final presentation. Using a visualiser means assessment can be done at the-point-of-writing i.e. during writing as well as immediately after writing, while the paper is still warm and closely connected to the writing and thinking processes that formed it in the young writer’s head. Crucially, teachers could responsively integrate whole class collaborative formative assessment of writing at a point in the lesson when children were immersed in the task and engaged in the creative and focused ‘atmosphere’. This focused atmosphere takes time for a teacher to build. Teachers felt that if they could assess writing at that time, in ‘that place’ as one teacher described it, it was particularly powerful and made a significant difference to the children’s learning about how to assess writing. It also sent out a powerful message that revision is not something children do at the end of a linear unidirectional writing process – it is a reciprocal process and writers are constantly looping back on what they have just written to assess its likely impact and quality and how far the writing is meeting the intended writing goals. Such immediate and collaborative assessment supports the development of children’s metacognition about their own writing – their understanding of the processes they are using to achieve writing. Teachers said this collaborative dialogic space led to a focus on more demanding and deeper assessment questions that dealt with compositional aspects, including choice and effect rather than secretarial aspects of writing, and considered the audience. Teachers found that this approach was facilitating the high level of writing discussion they wanted to encourage among their children. “A child will stand up and their work on the visualiser. They get an opportunity to say why they have chosen that sentence and why they think it is effective. Then the class helps the child with improving their work by rewriting it as a workshop.” © National Literacy Trust Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report Page 24 of 73