The Ambitious, Excellent Schools document (Scottish Executive, 2004) came with an insistence that there were many excellent schools in Scotland and that the Scottish education system had much to celebrate. This framework aspired for all Scottish schools to be truly excellent, ensuring that every young person reaches their full potential at school with no individual or community left behind in the process. It has been proposed that assessment has a vital role to play in achieving this goal as it can give pupils the feedback they require to enhance their learning (Scottish Government, 2005). Moreover, this opinion is emphasised within a Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), where the view is held that it is a pupil’s level of engagement and self-assessment that provides the basis for success. This happens when pupils have control over their own learning in the classroom (Building the Curriculum 2, 2007).
Assessment is for Learning (AifL) was born in 2002 with the aim of providing a ‘streamlined and coherent system of assessment to ensure pupils, parents, teachers and other professionals have feedback they need about pupils’ learning and development needs.’ With the importance of assessment having been discussed previously, it stands to reason that this document becomes of extreme importance to current practitioners in Scotland.
The Think, Pair, Share strategy first developed by Lyman in 1978 (McTighe and Lyman, 1988) is one of the tools which is contained within AifL. Researchers have found that students’ learning is enhanced when they are exposed to many opportunities to elaborate on their ideas through talk and discussion (Pressley, 1992). Within this co-operative learning type technique, individual participation and peer discussion is encouraged as pupils think through questions using three strategies:
- Think: Pupils are given individual thinking time to formulate their own answers and reasoning to questions posed.
- Pair: Pupils are paired with a fellow classmate to discuss their ideas as well as consider those of their peers.
- Share: Pupils pairs share ideas with the whole class. The theory is that students will be more confident in providing their ideas to the class with the support of a fellow peer; and that ideas will have become more developed through this process.
With this in mind, the aim of this professional enquiry is to examine the effectiveness of using this formative assessment strategy within the classroom.