The effect of embedding formative assessment on pupil attainment

Jake Anders, Francesca Foliano, Matt Bursnall, Richard Dorsett, Nathan Hudson, Johnny Runge, Stefan Speckesser

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Evidence suggests that adapting teaching responsively to pupil assessment can be effective in improving students’ learning. However, existing studies tend to be small-scale, leaving unanswered the question of how such formative assessment can operate when embedded as standard practice. In this paper, we present the results of a randomised trial conducted in 140 English secondary schools. The intervention uses light-touch training and support, with most of the work done by teacher-led teaching and learning communities within schools. It is therefore well-suited to widespread adoption. In our pre-registered primary analysis, we estimate an effect size of 0.09 on general academic attainment in national, externally assessed examinations. Sensitivity analysis, excluding schools participating in a similar programme at the outset, suggests a larger effect size of 0.11. These results are encouraging for this approach to improving the implementation of formative assessment and, hence, academic attainment. Our findings also suggest that the intervention may help to narrow the gap between high and low prior attainment pupils, although not the gap between those from disadvantaged backgrounds and the rest of the cohort.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Research on Educational Effectiveness
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2022


  • Embedding practice
  • formative assessment
  • professional development
  • pupil attainment
  • randomized controlled trial


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