How should we assess learning? — Teaching it Real

Prose based assessment has become THE way to assess. When schools came up with assessment models as part of Life After Levels they tended to fall back on prose descriptors.

via How should we assess learning? — Teaching it Real


The arch of scaffolding

What does scaffolding involve?

  • Having a clear plan of what you want pupils to achieve
  • Giving them the right tools to get the job done
    -making sure pupils know how to use the tools
  • Providing pupils with different scenarios to see if they can adapt the way they use their tools for a different job.

    => independent learners!

Scaffolding arch

Strategies we can use to help scaffold our lessons, so students are developing into independent learners:

  • Keywords (and definitions)
  • Modelled examples
  • Pairing higher ability pupils with lower ability pupils
  • Sequencing – asking them to tell you what would be the next step.
  • If this is the answer … what was the question?
  • Writing frames
  • Sentence starters
  • Key questions / developed questions
  • Make it relevant to what they know/understand
  • Provide praise for their effort, not their success


Ryan Brooks
Head of History at Carlton le Willows Academy

Modelling strategy – essays

One way of modelling…

I have used this strategy for modelling extended writing. In this instance I will talk about the time I used it with a year 13 psychology group to model how to construct a 16 mark essay. This wasn’t done as a revision tool, but instead used as a means of introducing the content too.

I gave students an exemplar essay written by myself (Outline and evaluate social learning theory as an explanation for aggressive behaviour). I asked the students to read it, highlight sections of description and evaluation. Within the evaluation they needed to identify connectives and sentence openers indicating a well written evaluation. I also asked them to consider the proportions of description and evaluation within the essay. Following this, the group fed back on the above points and were able to offer a good critique of the essay, highlighting areas of strength as well as areas where it could have been improved. They also commented on the overall structure of the essay and how the description and evaluation had been linked together rather than being standalone paragraphs. Having spent half the lesson critiquing the essay they had already started to become familiar with the new content too. I gave an explanation of the theory to consolidate understanding, but then asked pupils to use my explanation as well as their essay to sum up the theory in 5 bullet points. They had almost ‘worked backwards’; they started the lesson with the finished product and ended the lesson summarising it. By the end of the lesson they were really confident with the content.

The following week I set a different essay question for homework, they were encouraged to reflect on what they had learnt from the above lesson before writing their essay. The quality of the finished essays were to a much higher standard and continued to be so for the rest of the year.

The lesson was really powerful and a definite turning point in the standard of the essays produced.

Abigail Emsley
Lead Practitioner for Science & Psychology
Carlton le Willows Academy


Launch of Every Lesson Counts

On Tuesday 5th September, we welcomed all staff from Carlton le Willows Academy and Netherfield Primary School to a joint INSET day where we launched the “Every Lesson Counts” initiative. This was a great opportunity to mix with colleagues from a different school and to be able to share ideas across the key stages – right from early years to year 13.

We began by introducing staff to the book and the 7 principles outlined (challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, questioning, feedback and scaffolding) and discussed how the CPD would be centred around each of these principles. Staff from CLW and NPS facilitated a workshop focussing on each of the principles individually; this allowed for real collaboration from very different educational experience and perspectives.

The aim of these workshops was to discuss the practical ideas from the book based on one of the principles and to share these with colleagues. This enabled staff to evaluate aspects of their practice and consider how they could best use these ideas to embed the main ethos of challenge throughout the school.

Initial feedback from these sessions has been very positive and we look forward to getting the opportunity to attend two more workshops on the INSET day in November.

Using modelling for 6 mark questions

6 mark questions are a struggle. So much so, that a lot of the time, students will not even attempt to answer them because they find them so intimidating. This is certainly the case in Science, and even more so in my specialism of Biology. Science has its own vocabulary, and this is often overwhelming for students new to GCSE content. Take for example, a definition of osmosis;

  • The potential energy of the water molecules is called the water potential. Water will diffuse from a region of high water potential to a region of lower water potential, and the steeper the water potential gradient the greater will be the tendency for water to diffuse in this direction. For practical purposes we can therefore define water potential as the capacity of a system to lose water.

In this definition, we are automatically assuming that the students understand the meaning of the words I have put in bold and have underlined. Without access to those keywords, students will struggle with the more difficult scientific concepts.

I was given “Making Every Lesson Count” by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby to read over the May half term holiday which splits teaching into 7 principles: challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, scaffolding, questioning and feedback. When I reached the section on modelling, I found lots of interesting ways in which to demonstrate the skills and quality of work I would like my students to emulate.

One of these methods is live modelling. This is where the teacher scripts a text at the front of the class, with the help of the students. This shows the students how I, as the teacher, think aloud and how I begin to construct an answer to a longer mark question. This allows the students to see me modelling the decision-making process that leads to an excellent piece of writing.

I tried this with my class in year 10. Their targets grades range from 4-8 and they are an engaged and delightful group of students, but who regularly miss the mark with long answer questions as they tend to waffle, rather than get to the point!

I got the students to answer a question on immunisation and the primary and secondary immune response on their own. This is an example of the quality of answer I received:

“Get injected with weak dose of disease then your body defends against it. Then your body remembers how to beat it. Next time you catch it your body will just fight it off.”

Essentially, the elements of immunisation are correct but it completely lacks any use of subject specific keywords, any sentence structure or fluency.

I then tried live modelling with them, and posed them this question:

“Describe what happens in a primary and secondary immune response. Remember to include the words B-lymphocyte, antigen, antibody, memory cell, pathogen:”

I had given them 5 keywords they had to include in their answer, sat at the front of the room and asked them to write the answer with me, as I typed it up on the board. This is the answer we came up with:

During a primary immune response a pathogen enters the body. A white blood cell (B-lymphocyte) detects the antigens on the surface of the pathogen and the B-lymphocyte produces antibodies which are specific to that pathogen. The B-lymphocyte turns into a memory cell to remember the pathogen for future infections.

During a secondary immune response, the same pathogen enters the body. The memory B-lymphocyte detects the same antigens on the surface of the pathogen and produces the specific antibodies. The secondary response is quicker, more antibodies are produced and they stay in the body for longer which means that the infected person will not become ill.

I had lots of input into the final draft of this answer because I wanted to model to them unconscious habits that “experts” in the field have, such as vocabulary choices, sentence structure, editing and proof-reading. To that end, I would prompt them in terms of linking sentences, choosing which word to put where and how to give the text structure and fluency. Some might argue that the teacher here is too involved, but the aim of this particular activity is to teach students how to write, not necessarily reinforce the content, with which they had grown comfortable.

The real test came when I marked a 6 mark question on their end of topic test:

“Most children in the UK are immunised against diseases such as measles, mumps, polio and rubella. Explain how immunisation protects them from these diseases”

This question is very closely linked to the one we practised using live modelling and these are some examples of the answers I received:

When a child is first injected, this is the primary response. Pathogens are released into the body so B-lymphocytes in the body will create antibodies which are specific to the antigens on the surface of the pathogens. The B-lymphocytes then turn[s] into memory cells. With the secondary response, the memory cells remember those same pathogens and can create antibodies much quicker to get rid of the pathogens. These antibodies stay in the body and stop those pathogens causing harm to the body again. This is called immunisation.”

The immunisation (vaccines) contain inactive pathogens of the disease. The inactive pathogens enter the body and are detected by B-lymphocytes which produce antibodies to kill the inactive pathogens. Some of the cells that kill the inactive pathogens are memory cells. These remember the pathogens for the next time the child has the disease. The memory cell on the next time can send antibodies quicker and more efficiently so the child becomes immune to the disease. They use inactive pathogens so the child doesn’t catch the disease after receiving the vaccination”

You can clearly see an increase in the level of fluency and the ease with which the keywords (B-lymphocyte, antigen, antibody, pathogen etc) are used throughout both answers. I’m not suggesting that these answers are 6 out of 6 yet, but the improvement has been huge, certainly with the abundance of scientific vocabulary.

I will definitely be trying this again; modelling is essential for students to understand how to create excellent work.

Halina Kuczynska
Assistant Head Teacher and NQT coordinator at Carlton le Willows Academy