Molly McDade

Primary Teacher

St. Andrew's Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

Exploring the Effects of Using a Desk-Based Traffic Light System in the Classroom


Educational assessment is a key component of the learning process, as it provides both educators and learners with a systematic approach to identify areas of strength and those which require further development.

In the area of assessment, formative assessment has become a significant focus for much educational theory, adhering to popular constructivist learning; taking precedence over rote learning which is traditionally found in summative assessment. Black and Wiliam (1998) believe formative assessment is at the heart of effective teaching (1998:2), as it both supports and assesses a child’s progression continuously. This notion is backed by the Curriculum for Excellence from the Scottish Government (2011) whereby it is recognised that children develop when formative assessment is being used in the classroom, as they are given the opportunity to think independently and develop their confidence through thinking about and reflecting on their own learning.

As a group having to consider various stages and backgrounds, we decided on this focus as it is something that can be applied and is beneficial to children at any stage of their learning journey. As educators we feel that children can sometimes be reluctant to share concerns about their own learning and thus we wanted to come up with a method that could allow children to self-assess without having to do so in an outward social setting in front of peers where judgements could be made.

Black and Wiliam (1998) found that children who require support with their learning saw an increased positive impact using formative assessment than children who require extra challenge. Having recognised this and acknowledging that part of my school improvement plan is to improve attainment within maths, I decided self-assessment would be a beneficial focus as these findings suggest that it would have a positive impact in reducing the attainment gap. The Scottish Attainment Challenge is the focus of much current educational policy and this can be seen through the various policies introduced by the Scottish Government (2015). My hopes for the enquiry were that this would allow me to target the children who feel they need extra support, or indeed the children who may need more challenge and, therefore, overall raise achievement within maths.


The aim of the enquiry was to find what impact, if any, introducing a desk-based traffic light system as a method of self-assessment had on improving children’s confidence in themselves. During this particular enquiry, this assessment method was used during maths lessons.

Download Practitioner Enquiry