5.4: Developing your teaching – Assessment and questioning

Time allocation

75 minutes


  • There are three areas for you to develop your classroom practice. 
  • Click on each one to go to a summary of why it’s important, what success looks like and ideas for practice. 
  • Select one of the ideas for practice from each area to try out in your classroom. 
  • This will require some additional planning either individually or in collaboration with a colleague. 
  • You should also evaluate the effectiveness and impact of this in discussion with your mentor.
Area 1 Area 2 Area 3

Avoid common assessment pitfalls 

  • Planning formative assessment
  • Analyse patterns of performance
  • Use externally validated materials
  • Practise summative assessments in controlled conditions

Stimulate pupil thinking and check for understanding

  • Wait time
  • Follow up questions
  • Pose-pause-pounce

Check prior knowledge and understanding during lessons

  • Multiple-choice quiz
  • 5 quick questions/If this is the answer, what’s the question?
  • Live marking

Area 1: Avoid common assessment pitfalls

By trying this activity, you will…

Learn how to:
Avoid common assessment pitfalls, by:

  • 6a Planning formative assessment tasks linked to lesson objectives and thinking ahead about what would indicate understanding (e.g. by using hinge questions to pinpoint knowledge gaps).
  • 6b Drawing conclusions about what pupils have learned by looking at patterns of performance over a number of assessments (e.g. appreciating that assessments draw inferences about learning from performance).
  • 6c Choosing, where possible, externally validated materials, used in controlled conditions when required to make summative assessments.

If this is successful, you will see…

  • Pupils who are familiar and well-versed in what their external assessments will look and feel like.
  • Pupils who are confident about sitting external assessments.
  • Pupils make better progress against lesson objectives as you make more accurate assessments.
  • Patterns emerge for individual pupils and across your class across a number of assessments enabling you to make better informed decisions about what to spend time on.


Plan formative assessment

  • Review a lesson you plan to teach soon.
  • What are the lesson objectives – i.e. what do pupils need to leave this lesson knowing?
  • Write a good hinge question for each of the lesson objectives.
  • Plan where the hinge questions will sit within the flow of the lesson.

Analyse patterns of performance

  • Work with a colleague in the same phase or subject as yourself.
  • Consider all the points in the year when you will collect data linked to a particular learning target (e.g. writing in full paragraphs, written methods for multiplication, analysing a source).
  • You may choose to use a spreadsheet or tracker for your class to record against each assessment point how well each pupil could do the learning objective (you could use your own school’s assessment descriptors or a simple “never, sometimes, usually, always”).
  • After each assessment point, review your tracker (ideally with a more experienced colleague) asking the following questions:
    • Which pupils have made progress?
    • Which pupils have stayed the same or reduced?
    • What factors may have influenced those who made progress? (e.g. Were they all sitting together? Did they get a particular intervention?)
    • What do you need to do to support those pupils who have not yet made progress?

Use externally validated resources

Summative assessments, like SATs, GCSEs and A levels, give a snapshot of pupils’ performance at a specific point in time. Summative assessment can evaluate pupil learning and provide evidence of their achievement. These assessments can also be used formatively, to provide feedback which helps pupils to improve.

For summative assessments to be most useful, they should be standardised, carefully developed and tested, implemented in controlled conditions, and assess the learning you want to find out about. You may be able to access sample and past assessments from awarding organisations for external examinations. These assessments have been carefully tested for reliability and validity and are often accompanied by reports which help teachers to understand common errors and misconceptions. 

Think about an upcoming series of lessons in which you would like to assess pupils’ learning and work through the questions here.

  • Is there an externally validated or widely used in-school assessment that I can use? If not, what task can I use instead?
  • Does the task test the understanding or knowledge I want to assess?
  • Will all pupils be able to understand the language used in the task?
  • Will pupils respond to the task in the same way?
  • Will the task give me reliable information: if the class did it again on another day would they get different outcomes? 
  • If another teacher’s class did the task would their results be comparable?
  • Is the mark scheme clear and can I use it to help pupils understand their marks?
  • Should the task be carried out in class, under controlled conditions, with open books, or at home?
  • How much time should be given?
  • Should I mark the task, or could it be peer-assessed, self-assessed or assessed by a colleague?
  • How will I prepare the pupils for the task?

If you teach a subject in secondary school at GCSE or A-level, there are many externally validated assessments that can be used in the form of past papers. 

  • You should search the exam board that your pupils are sitting their exam in.
  • You should speak to colleagues in your department about how they use these resources.
  • Some of the exam board sites require logins – your school can organise this for you.

For example:

GCSE | English Language | Assessment resources

Edexcel past papers on a range of topics KS4 and 5 (Account required): Past papers | Past exam papers

GCSE – Geography B (Geography for Enquiring Minds) (9-1) – J384 (from 2016) (Login required)

Practise summative assessments in controlled conditions

  • In order to increase the reliability and validity of summative assessments, efforts should be made to do these in controlled conditions which are replicated.
  • Your school may have a policy on this which you can look at. 

For example:

  • How will pupils enter the classroom?
  • What will they be allowed on their desks?
  • Will there be complete silence for the whole lesson? What happens if a pupil does not adhere to this?
  • What should pupils do when they think they have finished?

In your notepad – reflect on your practice…

  • Which idea(s) for practice did you try?
  • What did you do?
  • What happened?
  • What will you do next?

Area 2: Stimulate pupil thinking and check for understanding

By trying this activity, you will…

Learn how to:
Stimulate pupil thinking and check for understanding, by:

  • 4m Including a range of types of questions in class discussions to extend and challenge pupils (e.g. by modelling new vocabulary or asking pupils to justify answers).
  • 4n Providing appropriate wait time between question and response where more developed responses are required.

If this is successful, you will see…

  • Questions being asked from pupils to teacher and pupils to pupils.
  • Pupils are confident to air their thinking.
  • Pupils are confident to make mistakes and being encouraged to do so.
  • Questioning that builds on previous knowledge.
  • Activities that engage all pupils in talking and responding to the question.



  • Teacher poses a question, e.g. “Imagine we had no records about the past at all, except everything to do with sport, how much about the past could we find out about?”
  • Teacher pauses while pupils have thinking time or paired discussion, e.g. “Discuss what you are thinking with your partner.” They might pay attention to the talk between pupils.
  •  Teacher pounces on a pupil/group to see what they think e.g. “So what does this group think?” or “I think I like what you’re talking about here, can you explain that to me?”

Bounce the idea round the room asking pupils to build or challenge on what’s already been said, e.g. “This group has said something really interesting. Ollie, can you explain? What does everyone else think about that? Eliza, do you agree with Ollie? Does anyone disagree?”

Use follow up questions

If pupils supply you with responses that could do with a greater level of elaboration and/or sophistication, instead of accepting the response, you can add a follow up question to their answer so that they are challenged to go beyond their initial thinking. 

For example:

Teacher: What did you put for the answer to 4c?

Pupil: I put 244.   

Teacher: Thank you, how did you arrive at that answer?

In the next lesson you teach, try to do this five times.

Use increased wait time

Increase the wait time you give pupils after you have asked your question. It takes practice to feel confident not filling the silence but if you do, pupils will know that if they dawdle, they won’t have to answer a question.

One way to practise achieving a longer wait time is to count down in your head slowly from 10 to 1. Tell pupils you will be doing this and ask them not to put their hands up until the end of their thinking time.

It could also be helpful to ask a peer or your mentor to observe you and to time how long you actually wait for pupils to respond.

In the next lesson you teach, use a stopwatch/timer to practise ensuring that you provide adequate wait time for pupils.

In your notepad – reflect on your practice…

  • Which idea(s) for practice did you try?
  • What did you do?
  • What happened?
  • What will you do next?

Area 3: Check prior knowledge and understanding during lessons

By trying this activity, you will…

Learn how to:
Check prior knowledge and understanding during lessons, by:

  • 6d Using assessments to check for prior knowledge and pre-existing misconceptions.
  • 6e Structuring tasks and questions to enable the identification of knowledge gaps and misconceptions (e.g. by using common misconceptions within multiple-choice questions).
  • 6f Prompting pupils to elaborate when responding to questioning to check that a correct answer stems from secure understanding.
  • 6g Monitoring pupil work during lessons, including checking for misconceptions.

If this is successful, you will see…

  • Pupils are clear on what they have done well.
  • Pupils are clear on what specifically they need to do next in order to improve.
  • Pupils want to improve their work.
  • Pupils are not disheartened if their work needs improvement.
  • Pupils considering improvement as part of the learning experience.


Multiple-choice quiz

For a lesson you have coming up, develop a multiple-choice quiz that you could use at the beginning of the lesson to check for prior knowledge – this can include the security of that knowledge.

For example, the teacher has taught one lesson in a sequence of lessons on the Battle of Hastings. He uses the following multiple-choice questions to test pupils’ knowledge as they go into lesson 2.

  1. Why might Harold’s army have been tired before the Battle of Hastings?
    • They had recently fought Harald Hadrada.
    • They had recently fought King Cnut.
    • They had recently fought William Duke of Normandy.
  2.  What other reason did Harold’s army have for being tired?
    • They had marched to and from London Bridge.
    • They had marched to and from Stamford Bridge.
    • They had marched to and from Severn Bridge.
  3.  What advantages did William’s army have ahead of the battle?
    • They were a large army of mostly amateur soldiers.
    • They arrived early and positioned themselves atop Senlac Hill.
    • They were well equipped with horses and weapons.

5 quick questions/If this is the answer, what’s the question?

For a lesson you have coming up, develop a series of 5 quick questions you could ask to check for pupils’ prior knowledge. 

For example, taking the same history lesson as above:

  1. Who had Harold fought ahead of the Battle of Hastings?
  2. Where did this battle take place?
  3. What other reason did Harold’s army have for being tired before the Battle of Hastings?
  4. Name one advantage William had over Harold.
  5. Name another.

Another way you could do this is: If this is the answer, what is the question? In this activity, you provide the pupils with the answers, and they need to devise the questions. Pupils typically find this a more difficult activity because it requires a greater depth of understanding in order to construct the question. For example:

  1. Harald Hadrada
  2. Stamford Bridge
  3. They had to march all the way to and from Stamford Bridge and then to Hastings.
  4. His army had very good weapons.
  5. His army had horses.

Live marking

  • Set an activity for your pupils.
  • While pupils are working, circulate and review what pupils are doing, offering feedback to each pupil that identifies a clear action for improvement.
  • Give pupils time to improve their work based on your feedback.
  • You could also use marking codes here if pupils are familiar with them, e.g. tick for something correct, circle for something that needs to be corrected.

In your notepad – reflect on your practice…

  • Which idea(s) for practice did you try?
  • What did you do?
  • What happened?
  • What will you do next?