Formative assessment can best be described as a learner-centred experience, which provides valuable data without the pressure of high-stakes testing (Box, 2019). Adoption of this practice increases the likelihood that teaching and learning is planned from a more informed perspective (Bakula, 2010). This is achieved through the frequent testing of pupil understanding (Crumrine and Demers, 2007).
Given the importance of frequent formative assessment in the planning and progression of teaching and learning (Wiliam, 2011), this area of practice attracts attention for practitioners keen to develop their ability to communicate with and engage learners. Within the author’s practitioner study group, agreement was reached that our formative assessment experiences do not always demonstrate two-way communication which gives sufficient room for pupil voice. The idea of one-to-one instruction and communication with pupils has previously been regarded as the “gold standard” within education (Bloom, 1984; Wiliam, 2011), however, the unaffordable nature of such an aspiration seems self-evident.
To improve this, the formative assessment strategy of using exit passes to gauge pupil understanding and confidence in their learning experience within a lesson was chosen. The idea of focussing on exit passes to bridge this aspiration with the demands of the classroom was seen as an appropriate study, as this assessment approach gives potential for all pupils to provide feedback, due a lack of pressure to contribute in front of peers. It further allows for frequent one-to-one communication, albeit in a delayed sense.
Given that frequent assessment is seen as a vital contributor to closing the attainment gap (Sharples et al., 2011), and that closing the gap is a national and local priority (Education Scotland, 2018), the study group participants are keen to increase competence in their classrooms by engaging with an assessment tool less-used by members of our group. This creates a healthy climate of conducting fruitful research with a tangible purpose for all contributors as well as their colleagues.
The aim of the enquiry has been to find out what happens when exit passes are introduced into the classroom; the answer to this question will be delivered from both the teacher’s as well as the learner’s perspective. It will look at the assessment knowledge gained from exit passes, the impact on teaching and learning, and pupil engagement with the process.