Ofsted Framework 2012

The 2012 Ofsted framework for school inspection sets out how the general principles and processes of inspection are applied to schools in England. Among the details of what inspectors consider when evaluating the quality of teaching are the following elements of ‘assessment for learning’:

  • How well pupils understand how to improve their learning as a result of frequent, detailed and accurate feedback from teachers following assessment of their learning
  • The extent to which teachers’ questioning and use of discussion promote learning
  • The extent to which teachers enable pupils to develop the skills to learn for themselves, where appropriate, including setting appropriate homework to develop their understanding

Assessment and Learning

Assessment of Learning (evaluating performance) and assessment for learning (supporting improvement) are equally important and a balance needs to be struck. The  Assessment & Learning Pocketbook is about how to achieve that balance and expand strategies for learning. It covers many of the areas outlined in the Ofsted framework and gives detailed advice on five main areas:

  • Sharing learning and success criteria with learners
  • Engaging in quality dialogue and discussion
  • Giving immediate high quality verbal feedback
  • Marking less yet achieving more
  • Making effective use of peer-and self-assessment

Author Ian Smith starts by emphasising the ‘learning’ rather than the ‘doing’ in a lesson. This builds awareness and understanding amongst pupils, enabling greater understanding of how they can make improvements to their learning. When teachers are under pressure it can be hard to remember the learning intention and success criteria, let alone share them with students. Ian helpfully sets out how to develop accessible learning intentions that will make sense to both teacher and students. Starting with learning objectives, outcomes and targets taken from curriculum guidelines, he shows how to develop learning intentions through a nine-step plan.

The book also shows how to: generate high levels of interaction in the classroom and overcome ‘the teacher’s addiction to the right answer’; allow as many pupils as possible to communicate their understandings; ask fewer but better questions; change classroom dynamics and ways of gathering feedback to develop the skills pupils need to learn for themselves. There are tips on asking ‘higher order’ questions, checking through ‘hot’ questions and the use of ‘minimal encouragers’. There is a range of tasks to encourage better classroom participation using such techniques as: ‘think, pair and share’, ‘ask for five’, ‘beat the teacher’, ’get on the carousel’ and more.

Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is one of the most important things a teacher can do to help students make the jump from what they currently know, to what they are expected to know. Finding time to do this is crucial. To maximise time try the following:

  • Conserve time handing out materials by giving students access to resources
  • Time desk activities to give enough time for feedback
  • Provide other sources of help: checklists, reference books, prompt sheets etc
  • Establish routines to ration time fairly, eg displaying a checklist of steps to take/avenues to pursue before asking the teacher
  • Manage time so a third of the class get oral feedback every third lesson

When giving feedback accentuate the positive but don’t eliminate the negative. Try to balance accuracy, honest criticism and support. When giving feedback about a difficulty focus on the task not the person. Rather than saying, ’You’re not getting the hang of this are you?’ try ‘This is difficult isn’t it?’ adding helpful suggestions of how to deal with the difficulty. Focusing on effort or strategies also helps students overcome the sometimes-held belief that their ability is fixed at birth and nothing they do can change that.


Ian reminds us when marking homework to focus on agreed criteria. You will sometimes focus on grammar and sometimes on aspects of content. Rather than defacing pupils’ work with scores, ticks, crosses etc. he notes that it is better to write neat comments in the margin and also to give students time in class to absorb those comments.

 Ian looks at why sometimes grading work can be counter-productive and includes the following quote from Black and Wiliam, ‘Inside the Black Box

‘’When the classroom focuses on rewards, ‘gold stars’ or place-in-the-class ranking, then pupils look for ways to obtain best marks rather than to become better learners. Or they simply seek to ‘get by’ and avoid difficult tasks. Or even worse, they simply give up and ‘retire hurt’.’’

Pupils who get good marks don’t read the comments because they don’t think they need to do better, those with poor marks don’t absorb the comments because they are upset. Pupils who want to improve, and believe they can, will read comments BUT under-confident pupils, no matter what their ability, will not act on them.

Getting pupils to take more responsibility for their own learning doesn’t just happen. It grows out of strategies:

  • Pupils knowing what they are expected to learn and how they know they have been successful
  • Creating a climate in the classroom where there is open and honest dialogue
  • Modelling the giving and receiving of quality feedback
  • More emphasis on improvement and less on performance

If you would like to view an extract of the Assessment & Learning Pocketbook you can do so by clicking here. If you would like to buy a copy of the book, either in paperback or as an e-book, details are on our website, or email sales@pocketbook.co.uk or give us a call on 01962 735573 to place your order.

In addition to Assessment & Learning, two other Teachers’ Pocketbooks are currently much in demand as schools work on interpreting and meeting the criteria of the new framework: Outstanding Lessons Pocketbook (see blog post Nov 23rd, 2011) and Differentiation Pocketbook (June 29th, 2011.)




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