BIG 5 Project

What is this project about?

The main focus for our teacher professional learning at Penicuik High school is embedding formative assessment practices as put forward in Dylan Wiliam’s book – Embedded Formative Assessment (2nd Edition). In this book – which all staff have a copy of, Wiliam’s outlines the evidence of what research shows will impact on learners and its benefits for learners. He then outlines 5 key strategies vital to embedding formative assessment – our Big 5, in teacher practice.

What are the Big 5 strategies?

The Big 5 are:

  • Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions and success criteria
  • Eliciting evidence of learning
  • Providing feedback that moves learning forward
  • Activating learners as instructional resources for one another
  • Activating learners as owners of their own learning

How Will the Project look?

The Big 5 Project has two strands – professional learning relating to the 5 strategies and an associated practitioner enquiry strand that will develop over the next three years. Much of the work will be collaborative and take place in collegiate Trio groups formed by staff.

Throughout sessions covering 2019- 22 we will be exploring the key strategies and supporting staff to think about how that particular strategy looks in their own classroom and how they can start to build it regularly into what they are doing on a daily basis. To help explore these ideas it is critical that staff are not isolated but have an opportunity to discuss formative assessment practice and share strategies they have developed. We will ask staff to develop undertaking brief cycles of enquiry in Trio groups– supported by professional learning on practitioner enquiry to look at the impact of a chosen formative assessment strategy over the term of the project.

While it might be tempting to enforce a starting point e.g. learning intentions and success criteria and have everyone look at this aspect of formative assessment we want to encourage professional autonomy and realise that staff will be at different starting points and develop different interests within the strategies. Therefore individuals or trios may choose any one of the 5 strategy areas to work in on an enquiry.

How will it be run?

While the framework of the project is based on research and evidence of what actually works in schools and the project will develop and evolve in school through the leadership of senior staff and the Teaching, Learning and Assessment (WG) working group. All staff will be involved in the Trios and the project is part of the School Improvement Plan (SIP) which outlines key target areas. How those targets will be developed is part of the role of the Working Group – [all working groups will be asked to agree a working action plan for year one of the improvement cycle using a common template]. All Working Groups will have a Chair who will meet with the Head Teacher regularly to outline progress and any issues.

Practitioner Enquiry (PE)

The GTCS Standards demand all teachers take part in some form of Practitioner Enquiry and as part of our SAT (School Activity Session- teaching and learning support staff) sessions there will be an opportunity to understand more about what Practitioner Enquiry means and what it involves. This work involves staff posing a question relating to embedding formative assessment with a group of learners, constructing a short term enquiry to implement a particular strategy and then measuring its apparent effect on learners. E.g. they might look at how the use of exit passes improve student engagement and assessment outcomes over a two month period.

What will happen to the Practitioner Enquiry Work?

There will be a simple reporting template format for reporting back on a teacher’s enquiry and this will be able to be discussed with colleagues. It is proposed that later we collate and put the different enquiries into an electronic folder for all staff and also look to run a sharing session or sessions. One of the aims of this work is to help staff to look critically at their own teaching and assimilate some of the suggested methods that could be used within the Big 5 strategies.

How will the overall Trio work be managed?

The trio work is based on a collegiate way of working and involves trust in practitioners as professionals to complete the required work in a way that impacts on them and their colleagues. As this is initially a three year project we will need to build up knowledge and understanding of the implications of what is working and what is not in year 1.

Are other schools doing this type of work?

Yes – there are schools doing similar things across Scotland and there is a large scale Education Endowment Fund research study being run across a number of schools in England.

What are the key outcomes?

There are three themes within QI 2.3 Teaching, Learning and Assessment that we want to see some change in over time.

  • Learning and engagement
  • Quality of teaching
  • Effective use of assessment

However, the only reason to want to elicit improvement in these area is to improve learning for learners so that they maximise their attainment and achievement.


See excerpt from School Improvement Plan HERE.