Ross Barr


St. Aidan's High

  • Assessment For Learning

What is the Effect of Using Traffic Lights on Pupil Learning in the Classroom?


As an integral part of modern teaching, formative assessment first came to the attention of the many members of the teaching profession after the extensive research of Black and Wiliam in 1998, where they stated that formative assessment is the process in which “information about learning is evoked and then used to modify the teaching and learning activities in which teachers and students are engaged” (Black, et al., 2003). By coupling this definition with the principles of formative assessment stated by Phelan et al. in 2011 we can show that formative assessment as a process helps to assess pupil’s progression by putting students at the centre of their own learning.

A study by Bauer, et al., (2017) found that by providing clear and accurate feedback both teachers and pupils could adapt how they learned from the tasks set in classes. Shute and Kim (2013) reinforced the idea that “Formative assessment directly involves students in the process, such as by providing feedback that will help them gain insight about how to improve, and by suggesting (or implementing) instructional adjustments based on assessment results”. We find that the commonality between these papers on formative assessment lies firmly in placing the focus on allowing students to take control of their own learning, whilst fully embracing the ideal proposed by the National Council for Teaching Mathematics that “assessment should not merely be done to students; rather, it should also be done for students” (Shute & Kim, 2013).

Assessment is for Learning (AifL) reinforces this idea. AifL, a leading source for formative assessment, has provided the Scottish school system with many strategies each designed to aid students in “deciding what needs to be done next, and who can give them help if they need it” (Government, 2005). Included in these strategies is the traffic light system of self- assessment. This is the process of evaluating your own progress against three categories: Green, Amber and Red. Each of these categories are representative of how successful a person feels they are against a given criteria. This is where the use of the AifL strategies allows for a links to the Curriculum for Excellence benchmarks.


The aim of this enquiry is to investigate the use of the traffic light system on pupil learning in the classroom.

Download Practitioner Enquiry