Six key strategies for AFL in the classroom

What is AFL?

Assessment for Learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there. Assessment for Learning is also known as formative assessment.

Six useful strategies

  1. Key word feedback

Peer assessment, while being a useful AFL strategy, does not, when left unchecked, always yield constructive criticism. When using peer assessment it is suggested that teachers might use pre-generated statements. For instance, ‘you use key terminology’ might form the basis of a WWW or EBI. Alternatively, you could limit students to two ‘areas’ or ‘categories’ of scrutiny such as use of paragraphs or quotations to ensure that feedback is focused. Equally, providing a bank of words (summary, describe, quotation, precise, audience) and stipulating that students must use between 3-5 of these words in their peer evaluations will ensure that feedback is clear and purposeful.

  1. Secret admirer

An anonymous book is selected either at random or on the basis of merit to model to other students in the group. A pupil is then selected to read the work aloud and, either individually or with the class, to discuss what they admired about the piece. You might also want to involve the whole class further by getting them to try and guess whose work has been read aloud. This technique can be used individually, as above, or using the entire class’ books (and feeding back either verbally or on a postit note or scrap of paper) to generate peer feedback for every student (you might want to impose the ‘key word feedback’ method described above). AFL stresses that any form of assessment has an emotional impact; this technique offers a potential forum for each student to receive a compliment about something they have been observed doing in class – the element of anonymity is good because students can praise the work given without pressure to be overly effusive or false.

  1. Plenary Pals

A pair or small group of students (usually higher ability pupils) are selected to produce a plenary for the class. This might follow a familiar structure like a simple quiz, getting them to fill in a blank ‘Who wants to be a millionaire template’ or simply verbal consolidation of what has been learnt. You may follow this up next lesson with a starter activity from a less able pair or small group.

  1. Role Reversal

Here, the teacher takes on the role of a pupil who is not quite getting something right. This could be modelled verbally by showing pupils or in a written piece of work. The teacher must then ask students what they need to do in order to correct the piece. One approach to this is to use student’s planner cards and to ask them: “do you think it would be helpful to __________?” Students who correctly agree or disagree with the appropriate approach can then be questioned further as to why they think that this would work and how it would improve the piece, effectively modelling good practice to weaker students or those who may potentially have made such mistakes in their work.

  1. Success Sorting

The success criteria or mark scheme requirements for a particular task are mixed in with erroneous statements; students must sort the statements of use to the task from the invalid ones.

  1. Colour-coded compliments

Students are given three colours/ highlighters from which they must create a mutually agreed key or code: one colour represents outstanding work, one good and one signalling that work is needed. Again, this task works well using either a mark scheme or the earlier outlined ‘key word feedback’. Students must simply colour code where their peers have evidenced good, outstanding or work which needs to be improved. Comments in the margin should be encouraged, for example, a pupil who has mentioned ‘the stomach’ but hasn’t provided details as to what occurs there might be coloured in red with a note in the margin to expand in more detail the functions of this organ. This technique works best when first modelled to classes.


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