October 14, 2022

Implementing the EEF’s Five-a-day-approach: School Planning Guide for Primary Schools – Part 2

This is part 2 of the ‘Implementing the EEF’s Five-a-day-approach’ series. This blog focuses on using diagnostic assessment to identify learning gaps.

Implementing the EEF’s Five-a-day-approach and School Planning Guide for Primary – Part 2 of 3

The first blog post introduced the EEF’s guide for school planning for Autumn 2022.

In the first blog post, the EEF’s recommendations for high quality teaching were explored in detail through the ‘five-a-day’ approach.

This second blog post will focus on using diagnostic assessment to identify learning gaps

Diagnostic Assessments

Diagnostic assessments provide opportunities for teachers to reflect on pupils’ thinking, strengths and weaknesses. They can give useful insights into learning, adding to the richness of information that teachers hold about their pupils. When used effectively, diagnostic assessments can indicate areas for development for individual pupils, classes or across year groups. Regardless of what form they take; it is important that teachers know why they are conducting assessments prior to using them. It should be clear what information the assessment is designed to produce, how this information will be used to inform future teaching. With the information that diagnostic assessments provide, teachers may decide to adapt the level of challenge of activities; re-teach specific concepts; adjust curriculum content in the short or long term; provide pupils with feedback through which they can address their own areas for improvement; decide which pupils may need additional, targeted academic support.

The EEF report suggests the following diagnostic tools:

The purpose of hinge questions is to use questions at a pivotal point in the lesson to offer immediate indicators of learning. To put hinge questions in place might include multiple choice questions with plausible distractors that can then lead to meaningful class discussion.
Low-stakes quizzing can offer curriculum-sensitive insights into pupils’ learning. Low-stakes quizzing can effectively identify knowledge gaps.
Mind maps or concept maps before a new unit can establish crucial prior knowledge. Here, graphic organisers can effectively trigger prior knowledge.

School leaders should reflect on three key questions:

  1. What assessment tasks will provide the best information about the pre-requisite knowledge, skills and competencies we want our pupils to develop?
  2. Are our assessments used to diagnose issues at an individual, class and cohort level?
  3. Are assessments being used to inform judicious adaptions to the curriculum?

Improving Literacy and Numeracy outcomes

Improving literacy and numeracy outcomes are vital for school success. Essential skills such as reading can unlock access to the entire school curriculum. Reading fluency can support comprehension when reading historical sources. Tackling local case studies in Geography or reading poetry in English. Whilst mathematics is a crucial subject in its own right, mathematical ability is also important in order to access other curriculum areas, such as Science and Geography. There is clear evidence that pupils’ learning in both literacy and numeracy has been adversely impacted by the many challenges posed by the pandemic. Some research also shows the disadvantaged pupils have fared worse than their classmates, causing historic gap in attainment to further widen.

Literacy recommendations:

Mathematics recommendations:

Key questions to consider:

  1. What are the specific key literacy or mathematic issues that need to be addressed?
  2. What are the existing literacy and mathematical practices and supports already established in school? Are these well targeted?

Targeted academic support

For pupils in need of additional support, research suggests that providing targeted academic support finely tuned to the needs of individual pupils offers potential benefits. School planning should therefore be focused on planning high-quality interventions to compliment high-quality classroom teaching.

Most pupils will benefit solely on a focus on high-quality teaching; however, some children may require extra targeted support that is tailored to their specific needs to get their learning back on track. Additional interventions could involve revisiting foundational knowledge, practising basic skills or pre-learning upcoming content. Interventions should strongly link to the curriculum being covered in class, with the content being set by teachers where possible.

In this section of the guide, EEF introduce the target model. The target model recommends typical active ingredients of successful targeted support.

The Target Model has six elements:

  • Timing

    Interventions should be brief and regular.

  • Assessment

    Assessments are used to pinpoint specific gaps.

  • Resourcing

    The intervention has structured resources and lesson plans with clear objectives.

  • Give it time

    Careful timetabling is in place to enable consistency. Sessions are maintained over a sustained period. (8-20 weeks)

  • Expert delivery

    The intervention programme is followed precisely.

  • Teacher links

    If not delivered by the classroom teacher, the intervention deliverer and the teacher communicate regularly and make strong connections between intervention learning and classroom learning.

Key questions to consider:

  1. Does your planned targeted academic support draw on the principles highlighted in the EEF Target Model?
  2. Are pupils missing important curriculum content when undertaking interventions and how can this challenge be mitigated so that learning gaps are not compounded?

Part 3 coming soon…

Photo of Emma Adcock – VNET EDUCATION CIC
Emma Adcock

Principal Consultant
October 2022

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