Emma Penman

Primary Teacher

Kildrum Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

Using Traffic Lights as a Form of Self-Assessment to Inform the Next Steps in Learning & Teaching


Effective formative assessment provides insight into pupils’ understanding of tasks, levels of confidence, their willingness to persevere and the extent of their success in achieving outcomes (Hayes, 2012). It is defined as “the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there” (Hargreaves, 2005, p214). Plans to collect evidence should be varied and responsive to individual learners. This ensures more effective learning takes place as it gives teachers a better understanding of the level of challenge required to ensure pupils are progressing. Furthermore, it can develop a more supportive learning environment and build better relationships between teacher and pupils as it demonstrates that teachers want to gain an understanding of what and how pupils think, rather than whether they know the correct answer (Brookhart, 2008).

To formatively assess, pupils’ learning should be made explicit by sharing learning intentions and success criteria with pupils. These should be observable and written in language that children can understand. This supports pupils by ensuring that they are aware of what they are learning and how to achieve it. Black and Wiliam argue that for formative assessment to be effective, pupils must be trained in self and peer assessment to ensure they understand the concepts that they are learning and what is required of them to be successful learners (Black and Wiliam, 1998b). Peer and self-assessment can be used effectively to support pupils’ progress as it helps the children to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills. By developing these skills for reflecting on their own work, children gain confidence and become more independent learners by measuring their own progression. These skills enable pupils to inform teachers about where learning is deep, shallow or stalled thus enabling teachers to appropriately plan for future lessons in response to the learners needs (Brookhart, 2008).


The enquiry aimed to introduce traffic lights as a self-assessment strategy in mathematics to evaluate pupil learning and inform planning.

Download Practitioner Enquiry