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Embedding Formative Assessment (EFA) programme 

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Make every lesson count, changing habits 

Our time with learners is limited. We need to make the best use of the time we have, both in and outside of the classroom. Teachers are passionate about making a difference to our learners’ lives. Teaching is complex, but it is also habitual. We repeat behaviours every lesson which we hope will move learning forward. The challenge is that these automated behaviours are often the hardest to change. In some cases, we are not even conscious of them. Hobbiss, M., Sims, S., & Allen, B. (2020) synthesis of evidence suggests that habit formation is an important factor limiting teacher effectiveness. 

The pandemic also forced habit change on teachers and students. Moving to remote learning and then back to the classroom with limited resources and movement. In this time good habits may have been lost. For teachers new to the profession, habits were formed that were limited by these constraints.  

If you consider the lesson by lesson repeated automated behaviours teachers have, classroom routines and questioning often come to the fore. Effective questioning is an ongoing assessment process. Much of our formative assessment practices are habitual as they happen every lesson, from how we create and share learning intentions to how we respond to right or wrong answers.  

Researchers Lally et al. (2009) looked at the process of habit formation in everyday life. The study looked at the length of time it took for a habit to form, such as daily eating a piece of fruit, drinking water or going for a run. The average time was 66 days. What was interesting about the study was the range of results, anywhere from 18 days up to 254 days. It’s important to note that most of these activities were relatively simple actions. Changing how you question learners in lessons is much more complex as it requires multiple habit changes.  

To ‘catch-up’ teachers and school leaders are working hard to ensure students have the required knowledge to be successful in their exams. This pressure leaves little room for habit change with multiple initiatives happening at once in schools.  

The Embedding Formative Assessment (EFA) programme focuses in on making every lesson assessment processes effective. Teachers moment by moment are collecting better evidence from all learners, enabling them to make better decisions on how to adapt their lesson to lead to better learning.  

The EFA programme is a habit change process. Whilst all teachers are working on the five strategies of formative assessment (Leahy, Lyon, Thompson and Wiliam, 2005) they choose the techniques that they feel will most benefit their learners in their subject and context.

Teachers are supported through Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs) in a carefully structured way to trial, refine and embed changes to their practice with no pressure to move on to the ‘next new thing’ until the habit change is embedded. Through peer feedback and monthly TLCs teachers remain focused on classroom impact to move learning forward.

Engagement  

Since the pandemic, many teachers have found that students are less engaged and motivated in their learning.  

One of the three key strengths of the Embedding Formative Assessment programme is increased learner engagement. Teachers, lesson by lesson, habitually using techniques that collect evidence from all learners preventing students from quietly opting out of lessons.  

The relationship between motivation and learning is reciprocal, Muijs D.(2022). For students to step into a positive spiral of motivation and learning we must give them the opportunity to experience success.

Responsiveness 

EFA increases the frequency and effectiveness of teachers’ responsiveness in lessons across your school, lesson by lesson.  

The EFA programme empowers teachers to make habit changes that ensure better quality evidence is collected, making better decisions in adapting teaching to the specific needs of learners. 

Evidence-based   

The Embedding Formative Assessment programme, is the only whole school professional development programme with proven impact at GCSE in an EEF research trial in an ​​EEF research trial. 

  • research shows committing 1% of teachers’ time to working in Teacher Learning Communities results in two additional months of progress for your students 
  • suitable for all schools, all phases 
  • fully supported programme with training with regular contact and training from EFA expert 
  • a cultural shift for teachers and students 

David Nickerson, teacher at Lostock High School in Manchester said the EFA work has been particularly effective with the school’s Pupil Premium cohort:  

“They are much more confident and orally they are much stronger. Strategies like this get them talking, confident to make mistakes, and that is an essential part of the learning process.” 

The Hayling College: An EFA Case Study

The Hayling College, an 11 to 16 comprehensive school located on Hayling Island, Hampshire, is a great example of a school prioritising both staff and student wellbeing. With a motto of “Happy, Healthy, High Performing,” the school is committed to providing a supportive environment for all those involved.

Martyn Reah, the headteacher since September 2021, is well-known for his creation of the #teacher5aday wellbeing movement. This movement promotes five actions – Connect, Notice, Learn, Volunteer, and Exercise – to help teachers prioritise their wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.

Mr Reah is also a driving force behind Pedagoo Hampshire, a professional development (CPD) event focused on improving teacher development and wellbeing holistically.

For Mr Reah, the EFA programme at Hayling College is a key part of his focus on staff wellbeing. He believes that investing in the development of staff through the EFA programme will lead to improved wellbeing for all.

The EFA programme at Hayling College

Assistant Headteacher for Teaching and Learning, Lorraine Mason, has been leading the EFA work at Hayling College. The programme’s implementation has been made possible by the makeup of the TLCs (Teaching and Learning Communities) at the school. These TLCs are composed of 11 colleagues with a wide range of subjects and experience, providing support and accountability for teachers.

Ms Mason said, “There is a buzz through the staff.” SSAT provides all materials for the programme, but teachers are free to adapt the programme to their needs. Teachers are picking and choosing what works for them and their students, backed up by research.

So far, the TLCs at Hayling have met five times and teachers are enthusiastic about visiting one another’s classrooms to see EFA strategies in action. This allows for professional discussions about potential improvements and celebrating what has gone well.

One interesting aspect of the programme for Ms Mason has been discussing the different formative assessment techniques that work with different students. For example, “Activating learners works well with my year 10s, but it does not work as well with my year 7s.”

Mr Reah sees the EFA programme as a way to change habits in the classroom, leading to improved teaching and learning. He believes that the programme will help teachers take ownership of their CPD, offer leadership opportunities, build a stronger sense of community, and reduce workload.

The EFA programme builds on the community spirit within the school. Teachers are working as a team to improve outcomes for students by focusing on what’s most important. This investment in development is an investment in collective wellbeing.

Working in TLCs provides supportive networks within the school. With no hierarchical structure, the groups have an honest and safe space for true collaboration and learning.

EFA: Helping to streamline workloads

For Mr Reah, the EFA programme is a key part of his work to change workload practices. Giving staff purpose and autonomy is essential, as teacher autonomy is closely related to job satisfaction, retention, and wellbeing.

Mr Reah said, “The programme cuts all the way through” this work. By the end of the two-year programme, he hopes that everyone involved will be able to articulate what makes Hayling College special in terms of teaching and learning.

In conclusion, Mr Reah stated that “EFA is high-quality, and it has been well-thought-through. It is about investing in people and in their CPD. It’s about hitting that balance between support and challenge.” EFA at Hayling College is a great example of how schools can prioritise both staff and student wellbeing.

EFA Funding Available 

​Schools with a secondary phase can access significant funding for our Embedding Formative Assessment programme through our work with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the DfE Accelerator Fund. Information about the funding is here.

Need more information?

We know that implementing a programme that delivers whole school improvement is a big decision. To find out more:

  • Join an online webinar to get an overview of the programme, the benefits, and how it can be implemented.
  • Spend the day with Professor Dylan Wiliam. Professor Wiliam is joining us for a series of in-person events in March where you can benefit from his world-renowned knowledge and expertise.
  • Visit a school already implementing EFA and learn first-hand how it has improved teacher responsiveness and student achievement.

Contact us at hello@ssatuk.co.uk, or visit us here.​ 

Further reading

 
References 

Hobbiss, M., Sims, S., & Allen, B. (2020). Habit formation limits growth in teacher effectiveness: A review of converging evidence from neuroscience and social science. Review of Education, 9 (1), 3-23. (https://doi.org/10.1002/rev3.3226)

Lally, P., et al. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. (https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674)

Leahy, S., Lyon, C., Thompson, M., & Wiliam, D. (2005). Classroom assessment minute by minute, day by day. Educational Leadership, 63 (3), 18-24. 

Muijs, D. (2022). Motivation and Learning: what comes first? (https://educationruminations.com/2022/07/01/motivation-and-learning-what-comes-first/)

Speckesser, S., Runge, J., Foliano, F., Bursnall, M., Hudson-Sharp, N., Rolfe, H. & Anders, J. (2018) Embedding Formative Assessment: Evaluation Report. [Online] Accessible from: (https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/EFA_evaluation_report.pdf)   

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