Working inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the Classroom

Author: Paul Black, Christine Harrison, Clare Lee, Bethan Marshall, Dylan Wiliam

Year: 2004

Paper Description

This paper explores the authors’ efforts to find practical advice for utilising formative assessment in the classroom. Having established the efficacy of such an approach in a previous paper (1998), the study undertaken sought to identify those practices which might create the opportunity for ‘good learning’ to take place.

Key Takeaway 1

Teachers should plan for questions which encourage pupil thinking, give pupils sufficient time for thoughtful consideration of their response and provide teachers with information on which to base subsequent decisions pertaining to the learning sequence.

Key Takeaway 2

Effective feedback should encourage pupils to think. It should be specific to the learning being discussed as this encourages pupils to compare their performance against a previous version of themselves, rather than their peers, and creates the conditions in which a change can take place in the schema of the learner.

Standout Quote

“Students given marks are likely to see it as a way to compare themselves with others; those given only comments see it as helping them to improve. The latter group outperforms the former.”


assessment, AfL, summative, formative, testing, feedback, learning, classroom practice, effective, responsive