Diagnostic Tracking using Google docs

I have always found it useful to encourage students to rate their understanding of sub-topics at the end of a section. I find it helps students to identify areas they need to revisit in DIRT (dedicated improvement reflection time) and as the class teacher I can glance at these to get an idea of topics the whole class is struggling with. A great example of this type can be found on the TES website here.


Students indicate red for poor understanding, amber for intermediate, and green to show confidence in their understanding. To do this at a whole class level was demonstrated to me several years ago by a Head of Department at my former school. Here you record the red, amber and green (RAG) rating for the whole class on one tracking sheet. This gives you a great overall picture and if this is done throughout the course you can identify when the level of understanding is mastered so that it is safe to move on, or individuals struggling can be identified early on. If completed at the end of a course then it is very useful during the revision process. I have used assessment / diagnostic questions to make the RAG rating objective but my experience is that students are very good at both judging their understanding and at being honest enough to share that with the teacher (caution: this is not always the case, use judgement / knowledge of students). Since joining a Pixl school there are a wealth of tracking documents available for many subjects. The screenshot below shows an example from the Physics P1 course and topics that are not well understood and a student requiring intervention is identified:

tracking_pdf As you can see it’s not always as clean-cut as we would like but it certainly gives a starting point for revision. This was produced in Excel and was completed in class with students called up one at a time to RAG rate each sub-topic. What has really worked well with my current KS4 classes is to import this file into Google docs and share the link (editable link) with students who have then completed this as a homework. The spreadsheet looks a little different mostly because it is not possible to have vertical text as the column headings so this causes the spreadsheet to go off the page:


As you can see though we can still identify topics and students requiring more support as before but this can edited again and again by students as they conduct their own revision in the build up to their GCSE exams. Following an after school revision session this week it was very powerful to ask students to re-evaluate the file and many changed some reds to amber, and quite a few to green. There is the potential for one student to go in and delete all or change everyone to red, as many students pointed out, but so far this has not happened as students can see how helpful it is for all concerned. Here is link to a google sheet set up to RAG rate GCSE Science A.

QLC “Same Page” TeachMeet: Independent Learning and Metacognition

I recently attended a TeachMeet at Severn Vale School in Gloucester. The purpose of this was to meet other teachers from across our partnership of schools who are interested in developing the same areas of practice and pedagogy, to make connections, share ideas and perhaps come away with some new ones along with some contacts with whom to collaborate! I was part of the group that discussed Independent Learning and Metacognition. Here is a picture of some of the points discussed:


The literature review produced by Meyer et al. was of great use and helped with some questions we had. Independent learning is described as self-regulated learning with students planning, self-monitoring, controlling, and evaluating learning activities. We found it closely linked to an alternative discussion group findings around Growth Mindset with delegates attending both sessions suggesting we should combine forces in our efforts.

The skills required of independent learners are (again from Meyer here):

  • Cognitive skills such as memory and problem-solving
  • Metacognition skills – learning to learn
  • Affective skills such as motivation (and closely linked to a growth mindset and how to develop)

My own experience of teaching metacognition comes from Building Learning Power (BLP) which was introduced during my NQT year in my first post. I still talk about the fours R’s (Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reciprocity, and Reflectiveness) with my students today and many aspects of identifying steps in learning have been part of the reflecting aspect of KS3 Science in Wales since 2006:


Advice was shared when talking about developing independent learners within the classroom – that teachers must move from being the sage on the stage and aim to be the guide on the side was felt to be a great way of describing the shift in thinking about lessons. It was pointed out however that the recent Sutton Report concludes that quality of instruction (including effective questioning and assessment) is one of two factors with the strongest evidence of improving pupil attainment. (It’s ok to be the sage sometimes).

Primary colleagues already discuss the challenge of any particular task in terms of how students cope: If it is easy then they are in the green zone, too hard and it is in the red zone – if the challenge is enough to stretch but not to cause panic then they are in the purple zone and they are purple learners. This explains why year seven students have been talking about being purple learners!

Currently, our year seven team and students are focussing on how to be resilient learners, what to do when you get stuck (4Bs), and that getting stuck is part of learning – to expect it in fact! My own year seven class appear confident, as a group, approaching any task and support each other very well in lessons.

A great aspect coming out of the discussion is that we are already doing a great deal to develop independent learners, in both the primary and secondary phases, and that pupils going through QLC are developing into independent learners giving them exactly the springboard for college and beyond that they need to be a success. A common “language of learning” used by our teachers needs to be shared and staff will be sharing activities that will help develop some of the skills discussed. I personally would like to observe primary colleagues developing purple learners and their use of success criteria.

Developing life long learners is really what teaching is all about – its only content that gets in the way! This was a feeling within our group, that time was so precious, using it to develop the skills of independent learners may impact on covering all material (especially following recent changes). Many delegates felt there are activities that do both – students cover content whilst developing the skills. These activities are what our group intend to develop – I will share successful activities here.