Over the last fifteen years, there has been an asserted effort in Scottish education to integrate the use of formative assessment strategies (Bryce et al., 2013). Fundamental to this was the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), which explicitly advocates for all learners to be “involved in planning and reflecting on their own learning” through formative assessment (Scottish Government, 2008, p.27), as well as the Assessment is for Learning (AifL) movement, which states that both learners and teachers require feedback to help progress the learning (Scottish Government, 2005). It is this clear national guidance on the inclusion of learners in the formative assessment process which set the focus for this enquiry.
Black and Wiliam (2009) describe five key strategies for formative assessment. Strategies 4 and 5 of this model focus on the need to activate students as instructional resources for one another, and as owners of their own learning, while strategy 3 emphasises the need for feedback to be effective at progressing the learning. This is further supported by the Education Endowment Foundation (2020) that states that “providing high-quality feedback to pupils is integral to effective teaching”.
This enquiry set out to discover the effects of pupils setting their peers learning targets, or goals, throughout lessons, as a form of formative assessment. Although the benefits of formative assessment in general are well documented, research in regard to some more specific forms of this is sparser. This enquiry therefore looks specifically at formative assessment in the form of pupils setting their peers written targets in an ongoing peer assessment log.
The three fundamental questions which were proposed by Black & Wiliam (1998) to be the purpose of formative assessment are: Where is the learner going? Where is the learner right now? How are they going to get there? These were considered when analysing the feedback given by the learners to their peers. The enquiry considers whether the feedback is effective by whether it helps provide an answer to these questions, as well as whether their work displays evidence that the feedback has been considered and the target worked upon by the learner.
The focus of this enquiry was only on strategies 3, 4 and 5 described by Black & Wiliam (1998) – the two which consider the role of learners and peers in their own learning, as well as one which highlights the need for effective feedback. More specifically, this enquiry aimed to focus on the feedback and the results of this in terms of motivation, quality of feedback and effectiveness of the feedback in relation to noticeable improvements in success within a lesson.