The effect of embedding formative assessment on pupil attainment

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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
Pages (from-to)748-779
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Research on Educational Effectiveness
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). The results of the trial were initially published by the EEF in an evaluation report (Speckesser et al., 2018) with this article building on that initial report. We gratefully acknowledge the following for their assistance throughout the project, without which it would not have been possible: the development team at SSAT including Fie Rason, Corinne Settle and Anne-Marie Duguid; other members of the implementation and process evaluation team, including Heather Rolfe; the Department for Education (DfE) National Pupil Database (NPD) team, particularly Zoe Davison; the EEF evaluation and projects teams, particularly Elena Rosa Brown, Eleanor Stringer and Guillermo Rodriguez-Guzman. Thanks also to Ruth Dann, Jeremy Hodgen, John Jerrim, and Dominic Wyse for helpful comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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


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