Eve McNamara

Primary Teacher

Knowetop Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

What Happens in the Classroom When Traffic Lights are Used as a Self-Assessment Tool?


It is widely understood that ‘assessment is vital to the education processes and that self- assessment gives pupils a sense of ownership of their own education and promotes transferrable skills which can be used throughout life (the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’ (OECD), 2018). Self-assessment plays a pivotal role in the current Scottish Curriculum and plays an important part in daily formative assessment in the classroom environment (Scottish Government, 2005). Formative assessment is a tool which can be used to: gain an insight into pupils understanding, promote critical thinking, boost confidence and inform responsive and long-term planning. (Wiliam, 2011).

Self-assessment is a regular feature in my classroom and is promoted throughout my school as a tool to encourage pupils to become independent learners. Using Learning Intentions, Success Criteria and considering their confidence in and understanding of a particular task, pupils can construct feedback for themselves to celebrate and improve upon.

In order to begin to fully understand the effect which simple and consistent self-assessment techniques can have on pupils in the upper primary school setting, I decided to incorporate daily traffic lighting into Mathematics by implementing a green, amber and red tray system for pupils to place work in once finished. I felt that this was a system which allowed pupils to traffic light without the pressure of “marking” insecurities or worries in their jotters as I know that some pupils in my class are apprehensive about this technique due to the permanent nature of the traffic light being in their jotters and being available for others to see.


The aim of this enquiry was to observe whether self-assessment through traffic lighting would have any kind of impact on the work produced by a Primary 6 class. The traffic lighting format used was a tray system, used to put work in after Mathematics sessions. The enquiry was carried out in a class with a wide range of abilities and with varying confidence levels in Mathematics but the analysis itself was carried out on a small focus group in the hope of providing more consistent results. Pupils were already familiar with traffic lighting, however, this study enforced traffic lighting as a self-assessment tool in a far more structured manner and the tool was always used after a task was completed, rather than during. I chose to carry out traffic lighting in this manner as it displayed the understanding once a particular sub-topic had been covered. We already had a separate system in the classroom where pupils could express a need for help or show confidence during the lesson so this was not something which I wanted to re-instate as it could upset our usual classroom routines.

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