Balance and the Chartered College of Teaching and Learning

We no longer have to be brave, just look at what impacts on learning and make it happen.
— Andy Moor

By Susan Cowell

September 2017 saw the release of the first Impact Journal from the Chartered College of Teaching; Assessment in Practice — guest edited by Dylan Wiliam. The pioneering journal managed to collate 25 papers, detailing issues, findings and ideas on assessment including Andy Moor’s (@amoor4ed) Balancing workload, assessment and feedback in the primary classroom.

Here, Andy highlighted his personal journey with assessment and his school’s own approach to dealing with life after levels, teacher workload and integrity of data. Over the years both Andy and his team have worked on projects with Shirley Clarke and Dylan Wiliam and developed a deep understanding of formative assessment. Yet this was at odds with the school’s policy for feedback and marking. As Andy explains…

“An increased focus on written marking then emerged within schools and sadly (I now recognise), I expected my staff to provide written feedback in abundance. Examples were proudly shown to colleagues as best practice.”

Yet he acknowledged…

“The negative impact however, was incredible, with teachers working late into the night to feed the policy. The recommendation by Wiliam (2011) that ‘feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor’, was certainly not found here: something had to give.”

The three main issues he wanted to address where:

  1. How do we get formative assessment (including effective feedback) embedded in every class?

  2. How do we ensure our assessment system represents the learning in the classroom?

  3. How do we make it manageable?

At St. Bernard’s, Andy and his staff turned to Balance. Over the next 18 months they were to go on a journey that was to transform their approach to formative assessment, marking and workload. This culminated in marking being banned and effective verbal feedback delivered as close to the point of learning as possible. This included using techniques such as ‘piles’; ‘Hingepoint and other questioning strategies; Visualiser to support peer- and self-assessment’; ‘Learning conferences and exit passes’ and many more different techniques.

Balance simply compliments the teacher’s techniques. It captures the learning, showing a depth that St. Bernard’s hadn’t been able to demonstrate before. Gaps are easier to identify and act upon and this transformed how they can show attainment and progress for all children, especially SEND children. Most importantly, it has put learning at the centre of classroom discussion…

During the time when students would have responded to written comments in their book, they are now given verbal feedback with the teacher and teaching assistant to move them forward in their learning.”

As Andy explains, it’s had a huge effect on leadership, effective teaching, reduced workload (up to 8 hours a week) and assessment with integrity. In conclusion…

“We no longer have to be brave, just look at what impacts on learning and make it happen.”

If you are a member of the Chartered College, the full article can be accessed here:

Balancing workload, assessment and feedback in the primary classroom was published in ‘Impact’ Volume 1, №1 Sept 17.