Five strategies and fifty techniques to improve teacher practice


What motivates Professor Dylan Wiliam is how to make  pupils learning environment better. During his early years of teaching in private and inner-city classrooms, Dr. Wiliam focused on physics and mathematics. He later joined Chelsea College, University of London, which later became part of King’s College London. Here, he worked on developing innovative assessment schemes in mathematics before accepting leadership of the King’s College Mathematics Education Programme. He co-authored a major review of research evidence on formative assessment with Paul Black and has worked with many teachers in the United Kingdom and United States on developing formative assessment practices to support learning.

Making teaching more responsive to the needs of our pupils is what, he says,  drives him.  Dylan Wiliam stresses the importance of formative assessment as a key process for increasing teacher quality whilst having the biggest impact on student outcomes.  We now have a greater understanding of the very significant impacts that good teachers have on pupil attainment.  And he wants to make sense of what the best teachers do in the classroom, and the nature of best practice, then to share this practical  knowledge with other teachers, so they and their pupils benefit. We must understand that teaching is very complex, he says. It  is very difficult to change practice and teachers never get really good at their jobs, but, with help and targeted  support, they can improve significantly. In education, research currently doesn’t really lead practice, although people assume this is the case . He sees his job as following  behind  the best  practitioners and  seeks to make sense of what they do .He then  acts as broker to help other teachers, filtering this through the latest available  research, to identify practical techniques that improve classroom  teaching.

Although he knows the damage that poor teachers can do, he wants no witch-hunt to get rid of  them out of the profession. He says that instead we should  focus our  energies on ensuring   that the teachers we have in the system    get the necessary  support to get better, day in day out. (What about the teachers who get support but fail to improve?)

So what are the key elements of the formative assessment approach? Professor Wiliam describes this succinctly in a video interview. There are five key strategies:

Sharing with students the learning intentions

Finding out where the students are- and what they already know

Feedback- not so much looking back- more looking forward to the  next steps in   the students learning

Students should be seen as learning resources -helping each other in the learning process 

Activating students to become  owners of their own learning

He identifies about fifty classroom techniques that teachers can use to embed these strategies in their classroom practice.

Embedded Formative Assessment-Professor Dylan Wiliam-2011


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  1. I admire Professor William’s pragmatism and especially his determination to learn from the best. What concerns me a little is that I know, if I had put his five key strategies in front of teaching colleagues in two of the schools I taught in for many years, they would have stared at me in disbelief. They would have regarded these strategies as routine practice, virtually a baseline from which you start. For me, the scholarship that goes hand-in-hand with these kind of behaviours, is what makes some teachers great.

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