Home > News and views > Schools and Colleges

Involving pupils in making decisions about their learning

Published: Oct 18, 2022 3 min read

Jane Winter

One of the things that participants in the recent Planning for Learning course have found surprising, and empowering, is that we don’t advocate that the class teacher knows exactly where children are in their learning for every moment of every day.  Of course, you don’t have to think very hard about it to know that it would be impossible to have this amount of information about every student in your class all the time.  And yet, as teachers we can sometimes feel a little bit guilty that we don’t have this information at our fingertips.

However, as Dylan Wiliam points out in the course, we only need to collect information if we are going to do something with it, and this is something that we need to think about before we collect any evidence about our learners.  As he says

“First, decide what decisions you want to make. And then decide what evidence will help you make those decisions in a smarter way. When the focus is on decisions, you always know how to use the data you collect.”

It is empowering for teachers to realise that the only information that you need to know is the information that you are going to actively use to make the decisions that you need to make.  This attitude of focusing on what you need to know rather than trying to know everything that there is to know can be empowering for learners too. 

Experience shows us that when trusted in this way, learners rise to the challenge.  They don’t pretend to know more than they do in order to save face, nor do they pretend to know less than they do in order to get easier work.  It turns out that, just like us, they want to do work that is interesting enough to stretch them but not so challenging that they cannot do it.

Perhaps you have been putting off joining us because you are so busy in school at the moment and you know how hard it will be to find the time to do this course on top of everything else.  However, it is possible that in the long run this course will actually save you time as you are able to use your time more purposefully, and let the children do more of the work for you.

Planning for Learning is an interactive online course for primary and secondary teachers, which will help you develop your planning for flexibility and evidence collecting opportunities, including addressing difficult areas and misconceptions.  Guided by experts in assessment for learning, the course is packed with real classroom footage, teachers’ perspectives, quizzes and ideas from other participants.  You’ll consider some of the key principles of assessment for learning:

  • There is a classroom ethos that values pupils’ views.
  • Teachers involve pupils in all stages of making decisions about their learning.
  • Teachers plan to establish pupils’’ starting points, and draw on their subject knowledge and expertise to then teach them accordingly.
  • Pupils are involved in the process of their own learning, including generating success criteria with the teacher.
  • Teachers plan for how they can gather evidence to tune their teaching and respond to their learners’ needs.
  • Teachers plan why and how they will use questions in advance of the lesson.
  • A range of assessment methods are used to infer student progress and inform planning.

Book 'Planning for learning: formative assessment in science and mathematics'