Experiments with Visible Learning showing big promise…

9 Responses

  1. Austin Booth says:

    Good post. I’ve also found that AfL and book marking has misled me to think students would retain more than they do. I’ve done a similar analysis for a Science topic test (see http://eviedblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/making-better-use-of-assessments-part-2/ ).

    I want to introduce a pre-test like you’ve done for my classes next year. After teaching the topic it might be nice to give out the completed pre-tests again for students to correct and complete (in a different pen colour) so they can see their own progression and what areas they need to focus their revision on before the post-test. However this would mean that the same test can’t be used for both pre and post-test.

  2. Mr Scotney says:

    Does it matter exactly how long you leave the summative assessment from completing the sequence of lessons? Also, how long was there between the end of the first cycle and the reteaching phase?

    • Hi. I’m still experimenting with this myself. My feeling at the moment is the post-learning assessment needs to take place approx 2 weeks after the end of teaching the unit. Give pupils some time to revise the content before the assessment (e.g. as the homework the week before). Then set the post-learning assessment following that. There certainly needs to be some ‘forgetting time’ between the end of teaching and the assessment so you assess what they’ve ‘learned’, not what they just ‘understood the day you taught it’. Of course they’ll need to revise the content again before the GCSE, but I feel if they can demonstrate mastery of the content 2 weeks after last teaching (with some revision) it’s a good indicator of whether they’ll be able to recall it (with further revision) at the end of the course.

      • Mr Scotney says:

        I certainly agree with that. I’ll certainly be adapting (i.e. stealing!) this approach in the coming year, but I also wonder if it might be appropriate to build on it and to keep drip feeding some of the topics even after the test – not in a formal testing manner, but more in starters/plenaries/homeworks etc. It certainly can’t hurt, I’m sure, and will only aid with embedding it further into long term memory. I’m sure that’s what Daniel Willingham means in ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’


  3. Ollie Orange says:

    Very surprised to see you referencing Hattie. He’s a Psychologist who uses Statistics that no Mathematician has ever heard of. He’s also admitted (quietly) that half of Visible Learning is wrong. Further reading – http://ollieorange2.wordpress.com/

  4. Calum Blair says:

    Only just re-discovered your website so I’m doing a bit holiday catch-up here!

    I’ve got a couple questions:

    1) Our school is starting to look at the concept learning conversations: I really like the idea of a pre-test and post-test – how do you feel it is impacting in terms of the discussions you are having with pupils and then their tracking of their own progress?

    2) I’m looking at a plethora of ways for pupils to track and monitor their own progress in maths in line with our curriculum – have you got any ‘words of wisdom’ in terms of how we might do this?

    Have a great Christmas


    • Hi Callum,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      1) I’ve had mixed experiences with pre-and-post-testing so far to be honest. It takes time to do it, so when you have a unit that students score low on the pre-test you are then ‘behind the curve’ and feel pressured to keep up with the scheme. Then you have to post-test this unit and pre-test the next. I have found it quite time consuming and what I gain in lessons that the pre-test tells me I don’t need to teach, doesn’t seem to counterbalance what I lose in time through doing it. However, I’m only doing it with one of my classes this year, a mid-low attaining year 9 class. I tried it with a mid-high attaining class last year and didn’t find time an issue.

      I see value in it, but you’ve got to have the time to do it if you’re going to use it with a mid or low attaining class. If you are measuring the progress at the expense of making the progress (by not having time for deep learning) then we need to question its value.

      What is interesting is how the students are very positive about it. I’m going to do some proper student voice soon to learn more about their thoughts, but they certainly prefer when I do the pre-and-post-testing. They have said it helps them understand their progress better.

      A final thought I would share is you need to be really clear with yourself when you are going to do the post-test so you are clear what you are testing there; immediately at the end of the unit?, with revision?, a month later? etc. I was very disappointed at first with how little the students seem to have definitely ‘learned’ as evidenced by the post-tests. When I looked at their post-tests I realised they were ‘nearly there’ on most questions. It reinforced with me the importance of constant revisiting and consolidation practice of earlier skills. I’d recommend doing the post-tests a month or two after the unit when you have done this consolidation as the students seem to do better which makes them feel better about their progress and more motivated.

      2) To be honest, we haven’t figured this out yet. We’ve seen a lot of other schools have a go and basically create a whole new levelling system which they then need to calibrate with the existing KS3, KS4 and the new KS4 ones! It’s added more confusion as parents and teachers try to figure out what ‘my school level 17b’ equates to in terms of old and new GCSE grades etc.

      I have done some prep work. I gave top, middle, and low sets in year 7 the new AQA foundation paper (9-1) and found it a suitably accessible/challenging assessment for all year 7s. This gives us the opportunity to put students on the 9-1 scale right through KS3-4 if we choose to which would be simpler than the current alpha-then-numeric system.

      My current view, which may change of course, is that we should keep the current assessments we use (KS3 SATS and KS4 GCSE papers), but importantly switch to not telling parents or students levels or grades scored on the assessments. These levels and grades mean something to teachers, but not to parents. I think we should report: target, projected final grade if things carry on as they are and what specific topics the students need to work on to move forward. Tell the teachers the current attainment level/grade because they have a feeling that ‘a student who will end up with an A* should be approx a B+ or better by the end of year 10’ etc, but the parents don’t. An analogy would be if you have a blood test, you doctor doesn’t read you the figures, they interpret them for you and tell you whether you’re healthy or not. If not, they tell you why and what to do to improve the situation. We need to stop telling parents ‘your child is a C- at the moment’ and then not giving them the means to interpret that. I currently feel we should just give them the interpretation as I spend too much time explaining to both students and parents that progress isn’t linear and they accelerate once they start past papers.

      To summarise, I currently feel:
      Keep current assessments (and grades/levels) but only report the grades to the teachers. Possibly switch to new 9-1 GCSEs for KS3.
      Report to students and parents: target, current projected grade if things carry on as they are, topics to work on to raise this projected grade higher, attitude score (and context).

      Hope that helps!

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  2. 27/08/2014

    […] the blogs I have read this summer, the one I keep going back to the most is William Emeny’s Experiments with Visible Learning (this is the second part of a two part blog by William, so you might like to read part 1 for the […]