Bebhinn McLaughlin

Primary Teacher

St. Kevin's Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

What is the Effect of Using Traffic Lights on Pupil Learning in the Classroom?


Assessment, in particular, Formative Assessment, is considered an integral part of teaching (Shavelson et al., 2008). ‘Formative Assessment is an active and intentional learning process that partners the teacher and the students to continuously and systematically gather evidence of learning with the express goal of improving student achievement’ (Moss & Brookhart, 2009, p.6).

Numerous authors have explored the efficacy of Formative Assessment, discussing common principles for its successful implementation (e.g. Heritage et al, 2009). Clark (2012) stresses the need for strategies which support lifelong learning: something which the Assessment for Learning (AfL) approach can achieve (Hattie, 2012).

Self-assessment is a valuable Formative Assessment principle (ARG, 2002) which plays a key feature in enhancing student learning (Black and Wiliam, 2009). It allows for more than simply checking if work is correct, but allows students to evaluate their work and consider improvement strategies (McMillan and Hearn, 2008).

One self-assessment strategy that I wanted to focus on within my classroom was traffic lights, with the intention of giving children more ownership of their learning (Wiliam, 2007). I chose the traffic light system as I felt that within my Primary 2 class this would be a familiar visual tool which could support further discussion and action.


Traffic lights were implemented into phoneme lessons on a Monday and a Friday over a 4- week period to explore confidence in using and recognising the new phoneme. This was assessed at the beginning of the week and again at the end of the week following practice and consolidation.
The aim of this enquiry was to facilitate self-assessment as a formative assessment strategy within the classroom. These aims, specifically, were to:

  • Determine how using traffic lights could facilitate self-directed learning.
  • Explore the accuracy of the traffic lights method by comparing data against performance in phoneme test.
Download Practitioner Enquiry