Ailsa Dick

Primary Teacher

Old Monkland Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

The Use of Traffic Lighting to Evaluate Pupil Progress


‘Raising Attainment’ and ‘Closing the Gap’ are key phrases used within Scottish educational policy. However, as practitioners, how do we ensure that we are achieving these goals? One of the six drivers in the current National Improvement Framework is ‘Assessment of Children’s Progress’. In its most recent publication, The National Improvement Framework (2019) states that this driver is important as it focuses on increasing the range of evidence being collected. The evidence will help support and improve health and wellbeing, raising attainment and closing the poverty-related gap. This will additionally be supported by National Standardised Assessments and teachers’ professional judgement.

As professionals, we are required to produce our professional judgements annually, focussed on pupil achievement of the Curriculum for Excellence benchmarks. To assess learning, teachers use a variety of techniques and strategies. One approach to assessment of pupil progress is the use of Formative Assessment in the classroom. This technique in particular has been embedded into the current curriculum and is used to support and enhance the learning of pupils. In Building the Curriculum 5 (2011) there is an emphasis on engaging learners with their progress and achievement through providing time for them to be both evaluative and reflective. For this to be effective, the document notes that children should be supported in developing skills in self-, or peer-assessment. However, this is not new research. Sadler (1989) discussed that children can only improve their individual performance if they aware of their learning goal, their performance and can identify the action required to progress. This research argues that teacher professional judgement and assessment is only effective if the learners are aware of their own achievement and progress.

It is important to develop an ethos where children utilise self-assessment as a resource. As practitioners we must use a variety of techniques regularly, providing time for the learners to develop the skill in identifying strengths and areas for development. This is necessary in the primary curriculum, as self-assessment will be more successful if children can engage with it independently. William and Black (2002) share that a simple and effective method to integrate self-assessment into daily practice is to allow children to use a traffic lighted system. This allows the learners to assess their work independently with the colours green, amber or red, according to their understanding. This provides children with a visual way to communicate their understanding or achievement of the goals set from their teacher. It also provides teachers with a simple strategy to evaluate pupil understanding and progress at a range of stages.


There were three key aims for this enquiry:

  1. To introduce traffic lights as a self-assessment method
  2. To use this self-assessment method to evaluate pupil learning
  3. To use self-assessment to inform next steps for both pupils and teachers
Download Practitioner Enquiry