Josh Espie

Primary Teacher

Clarkston Primary

  • Digital Learning: Formative Assessment

What happens to children’s engagement when traffic lights are introduced as a means of Self-Assessment in the virtual classroom?


In recent years, there was been a concerted effort towards meeting the needs and maximising the potential of all learners in Scotland. This is evidenced through the introduction of Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) as a child-focussed policy framework. GIRFEC seeks to meet four capacities: successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. In meeting these, GIRFEC seeks to ensure that each child is able to achieve their full potential. This is facilitated via the SHANARRI indicators that help ensure the health and wellbeing of each learner. Implicit in such a framework is that every learner will be treated equitably and given equal opportunities (Scottish Government, 2012).  

However, the Covid-19 pandemic posed a significant threat to the goals of GIRFEC. There was increased concern about how this would affect engagement in tasks within the teacher’s school. In order for the goals of GIRFEC to be achieved, every learner should have equal access to education. One method of increasing engagement is the use of self-assessment. 

Self-assessment allows a teacher to gauge the learners’ understanding of tasks, confidence and ability to persevere in their work (Hayes, 2012). This perseverance may have been impacted during digital learning when learners have more freedom regarding when and if they complete tasks. Indeed, confidence with tasks has been shown to be closely linked to engagement (McMillan and Hearn, 2008). Thus, it follows that if one can monitor the confidence of learners, and organise work such that learners are self-assured in their ability to complete it, engagement should increase. Furthermore, self-assessment has been linked to positive effects on learning (Sadler and Good, 2006). Maths was chosen for the subject of this enquiry due to the historical link between maths and low confidence (Larkin & Jorgensen, 2016). A modified traffic light system was used to assess understanding in this enquiry. 

For the purposes of this enquiry, engagement will be defined as participating in the maths task. This is distinct from attendance in that attendance will mean to have engaged in any task that day. This is an important difference because although many learners engaged in online learning in some form, far fewer engaged in set maths tasks. 


The aim of this enquiry was to determine whether using a modified traffic light method of self-assessment would increase engagement in numeracy. This would be done through scores on self-assessment informing teaching and planning. 

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