Tracy Davidson

Primary Teacher

Golfhill Primary

  • Assessment For Learning

The Use of Traffic Lights to Help Children Identify Success


A plethora of educational research exists which champions the benefits of formative assessment and how its principles can result in improved learner progress. The Assessment Reform Group (ARG) were pioneers in persuading educators and policymakers in the benefits of formative assessment. Commissioned work by Black and Wiliam (1998b) explained how formative assessment could impact learning by promoting student growth and raising standards. Such considerable emphasis prompted the Scottish Government to embed the principles of formative assessment, or as it’s known in Scotland, Assessment is for Learning (AifL), into the CfE Building the Curriculum 5 document for Scottish Primary Education (Scottish Government, 2011a). The CfE Statement for Practitioners (2016) states that “Assessment is integral to learning and teaching. It is an ongoing process”. Educators have since modified their teaching practice and classroom management strategies to allow them to work collaboratively with the learners, reflecting on learning and making suitable adjustments and adapt teaching and learning to successfully enhance future academic outcomes. There is a strong possibility however, that if these principles are not used correctly, students will not advance in their learning and progress may be affected.

Feedback is fundamental to successful formative assessment. Over the past decade, a national initiative in Scotland changed how feedback was used in the assessment process. Bryce (2018) explains that previously, assessment was predominantly summative with feedback given retrospectively. However, now the theory is that a student’s future performance can be altered by previous learning, so the information given adjusts gaps in learning and the feedback feeds forward for progression. This is ‘where a student currently is in their learning, where they are to go next and what they need to do to get there’ (Assessment Reform Group, 2002a) Limitations occur however when formative assessment is the sole responsibility of the educator. Students cannot then become self-regulated learners and develop in their mind the necessary goals required to compare and assess their performance (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006). Students, therefore, should be active and at the centre of the feedback process, deciphering their next steps based on feedback and how it will affect their future learning.


The aim of this enquiry was to see how the use of traffic lights improves each pupil’s performance in reading comprehension. It was hoped it would help children to become more aware of their next steps in their learning and become responsible for their own learning.


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