Tag Archives: assessment

Dylan Wiliam on assessment

On the 29th of May we had a professional development day with Dylan Wiliam. He spoke to us about what works and what doesn’t work in education.IMG_3291

Below are 6 key points about how to improve teaching and learning according to Dylan Wiliam:

  • Stop students putting their hands up to ask questions – it’s the same ones doing it all the time. Instead introduce a random method of choosing which pupil answers the question, such as lollipop sticks, and thus engage the whole class.
  • Use traffic-light cups in order to assess quickly and easily how much your students understand your lesson. If several desks are displaying a red cup, gather all those students around to help them at the same time.
  • Mini-whiteboards, on which the whole class simultaneously writes down the answer to a question, are a quick way of gauging whether the class as a whole is getting your lesson. This method also satisfies the high-achievers who would normally stick their hands up.
  • A short burst of physical exercise at the start of the school day will do wonders for students’ alertness and motivation. As any gym addict or jogger will tell you, it’s all about the chemicals released into the brain.
  • Ditch the obsession with grades, so that pupils can concentrate instead on the comments that the teacher has written on written classwork.
  • Allow students to assess the teachers’ teaching – they are the ones at the sharp end, after all. Letting pupils have a say is empowering and, if handled constructively, is highly enlightening. (Source)

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Good learning, criterion-referenced assessment, feedback and learning objectives

learning curveI am on a steep learning curve when it comes to criterion-referenced assessment. Like many teachers, I have used the standard norm-referenced assessment model for years. This is recognizable to everyone, for example: Question 1 asks for three main points. If the student identified the three points, three marks are awarded. In contrast to this, criterion-referenced assessment works with pre-defined criteria which describe increasing levels of success in understanding the curriculum. The more I read about it and work with it in the MYP and the IB DP, the more I see how using criterion-referenced assessment allows for a more sophisticated understanding and assessment of a student’s learning, skill and knowledge.

The example below shows what an MYP criterion (in “Individuals and Society”) looks like: Continue reading

TEAC essay structure

Essay writing with TEAC

There are many essay writing frameworks out there. I am sure you know the old hamburger image and the TEEL structure, but I find that these models do not convey the sophistication and analytical depth that is needed for a good paragraph / essay for IB History. So I came up with my own. I am calling it TEAC (Click on the poster):

  • Topic sentence, Theme, Thesis 
  • Evidence and Explanation 
  • Analysis and Assessment 
  • Conclusion 

Some further explanation:

  • A clear first sentence should convey what the key point (thesis) is of this paragraph. Also, a thematic approach is far stronger than a simple narrative account. Categorising events in themes like political, military, economic, social, long term, short term, strengths, weaknesses, causes, effects, ideology etc etc will produce a much more sophisticated and analytic essay than just telling the story.
  • Evidence and explanation should contain stats, quotes, years, events, people. Great sentence starters are: An example of this is, it can be seen that, this is illustrated by, as shown by, for example, as historian XYZ stated etc. This is where you show you know your stuff.
  • Analysis and assessment. Every IB History essay will require you to make a judgement. Just spitting out everything you know is not enough (avoid simple narratives), you have to place your knowledge into context and analyse why it was significant, what was more or less important, assess its effect or reasons why. Go to the Google doc for good sentence starters and conjunctions.
  • Conclusion: Always stay on track in addressing the essay statement. Conclude each paragraph with something that links to either your topic sentence or the essay statement itself. You can reuse some of the key words from the essay statement (but not verbatim, that is too simplistic). Also, take note of the command term of the question; do what you are “commanded” to do.

Some good links:

Here’s a good question for you: Why can’t I just use Google for my research? The pros and cons can be found here. 

How to write a great history essay, by Ms VW


Love your conjunctions:

Agreement / Addition / Similarity

Opposition / Limitation / Contradiction

Examples / Support / Emphasis

Conclusion / Summary / Restatement

in the first place

not only … but also

in addition

coupled with

first, second, third

equally important

by the same token








although this may be true

in contrast

different from

of course …, but

on the other hand

on the contrary

at the same time

in spite of

even so / though

be that as it may

then again

above all

in reality

after all


(and) still



(and) yet















in other words

for one thing

as an illustration

in this case

for this reason

that is to say

important to realize

another key point

first thing to remember

most compelling evidence

must be remembered

point often overlooked

to point out

on the positive / negative side

with this in mind

notably, including, like, namely, chiefly, truly, indeed, certainly, surely, markedly, especially, specifically, expressively, surprisingly, frequently, significantly, such as,

in fact

in general

in particular

in detail

for example

for instance

to demonstrate

to emphasize

to repeat

to clarify

to explain

to enumerate

as can be seen

generally speaking

in the final analysis

all things considered

as shown above

in the long run

given these points

as has been noted

in a word

for the most part

after all

in fact

in summary

in conclusion

in short

in brief

in essence

to summarize

on balance





by and large

to sum up

on the whole

in any event

in either case

all in all

Ron Ritchhart’s Eight Thinking Continua

Thinking clip art#1Eight thinking continua, By Ron Ritchhart. Cultures of Thinking Project. Harvard Project Zero, 2008. This is a great tool to assess deep thinking. I find it particularly useful for the assessment of essays and written work. I have created a rubric based on Ron Ritchhart’s continua in a Word Doc.

Download the file: Thinking Continua Assessment_Ron Ritchhart

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SOLO Taxonomy

solo intro

I have introduced SOLO taxonomy to my Year 7 students when we started the Rome Project. This is a inquiry based unit which encourages students to think like a historian and formulate their own answer to the question: “What caused the break-up of the Roman Empire in 476AD?”

The students really seemed to get it and referred to the different stages during their research. This is one of the resources I used to explain SOLO to the kids:

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Usable Knowledge: What is Teaching for Understanding?

investigateWhat is Teaching for Understanding? That’s the title of a Harvard site named “Useful Knowledge” I was naturally intrigued by the title, but as I read on, I was disappointed. The site describes that the Harvard Framework is designed to keep teachers focused on student understanding. I can not discover how this ‘framework’ adds anything new to the discussion about effective teaching. The site is summarised below. Make up your own mind. I’d love you to explain to me that the good people at Harvard have not just stated the bleeding obvious: Continue reading

How to move your lessons from good to outstanding | Teacher Network Blog | Guardian Professional

An “Assessment for Learning” questioning technique to help teachers move from  good-to-outstanding. It also helps address differentiation in the classroom and  encourages teachers to take risks. Time to Pose, Pause, Bounce and Pounce!

How does it work? Continue reading