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Case Study 3

Self-assessment ‘tools’: graphic organisers
Definition and Introduction
There are many ways in which teachers support pupils to become proficient at actively reflecting on the
nature of their work. One method is to use “graphic organisers”, which are tools that enables pupils to
self-assess. Usually in the shape of a graph, chart or drawing they are designed to encourage pupils to
structure work in a way that assists their exploration of their knowledge and understanding. Graphic
organisers are useful in developing self-assessment skills in learners of all ages and all abilities.

Key skills such as sequencing, comparing, contrasting and classifying can be developed using graphic
organisers, which help pupils demonstrate elements of knowledge and understanding. As such, they can
be used as a key component in training pupils to reflect on recent learning. The graphic organisers
support pupils by reducing the complexity of learning into a meaningful summary diagram. Such skills
are not inherent – pupils have to be helped to see how the graphic organisers help illuminate the true
nature of learning and of their learning gaps.

Self-assessment doesn’t just happen. It needs to be learned. The following are ideas/tools that can be
modelled in lessons. With practice learners use them independently. The examples that follow have been
tried in both primary and secondary classrooms.

The School Trials: in primary schools
One of the most popular graphic organiser is the KWL Grid, first developed by Donna Oggle.

KWL grids can be used at the beginning of a ‘topic’ to enable pupils to direct their own learning.
Prior to research pupils ‘brainstorm’ what they already know, what they want to learn and later
record what they have learnt. An extra column can be added in which pupils record how they
would find the information - KWHL grids.

What do I What do I want How I will What have I
know? to know? learn? learnt?

Teacher benefit: Pupil benefit:

€ Allows teacher to see how much € Provides opportunity to connect
prior knowledge pupils have and the prior learning
to spot any misconceptions € Pupil can prioritise / select train
€ Views ongoing process of enquiry
€ Evaluate learning that has taken
€ See success

Case Study 3

Traffic Lights Thumbs up /thumbs down

Red – doesn’t understand

Amber – not quite there

Green – got it!

Individuals indicate their level of Similar to Traffic Lights in that it can be used
understanding or feelings by showing the at any point to ascertain understanding or
appropriate coloured card. feelings.
Useful at various stages in the lesson – but
particularly in mini-plenaries and plenaries.

Teacher benefit: Pupil benefit:
€ Gives an immediate indication of € Allows pupils to give an immediate
pupils’ understanding and/or feelings response in a secure environment
€ Teacher is able to tailor support and € Avoids trials of writing self-
amend plans assessments. More fun!

Talk Partners Post –it’s

Groups, pairs, individuals evaluate learning
Pupils share with a partner; on post-it notes
€ 3 new things they have learnt €What have I learnt?
€ what they found easy €What did you find easy?
€ what they found difficult €What did you find difficult?
€ something they would like to learn in €What do I want to know now?
the future.

Teacher benefit: Pupil benefit:

€ Gains an overview of learning that € Focuses on thinking about learning
has taken place € Encourages them to think ‘beyond’ to
€ Has an opportunity to change the the next step.
focus of teaching – if necessary

Case Study 3

The School Trials : in secondary schools
Teachers in several comprehensive schools in County Durham have experimented with these
graphic organisers in their classrooms (ranging from Maths, English, Humanities, Drama, Music,
ICT and Modern Foreign Languages).


? What I have What I would
seen ask now

what I have what I have
heard done

€ Useful in organising ideas
€ Place the major topic in centre € pupils place knowledge and feelings in
€ Similar to “mind map” or “concept map”
different areas e.g. what I have seen, heard
and done which has helped me learn
It can map the learning at beginning or end of € inter-connecting senses and emotions
module. The pupils see the key areas which they
have identified or missed. It support the
The organiser is used to breakdown certain types
development of linking ideas and elements.
of learning. There are 4 sections to be used
creatively. It can support the VAK ideas; pupils
can add questions they would like to ask; it can
help the pupil to think ahead to what else they
Ladder would like to learn or remember to do next time

Venn diagram
different - same - different
€ Useful for ranking, prioritising, identifying
areas of clarity and locating unsure ground

It can help the pupil come to a decision by
involving her in placing learning in a ranking
order – which was most important? which have I
really understood best?

€ useful for comparing and contrasting
PMI diagram € shows interrelations between two elements

Pupils use the venn diagram to re-arrange
+ information in order to reveal to themselves more
I - clearly similarities and differences. In placing key
information on the diagram the pupil is more likely
to understand their pattern of learning
Pie graph for plus, minus and interesting
elements of the work plus minus interesting
Developed by Edward de Bono

€ Encourages pupils to identify what has
worked and not worked for their learning
€ It can also be drawn as a table

Case Study 3

How graphic organisers supported self-assessment in secondary schools?

organiser benefits to pupils benefit to teacher
€ useful as summary after a module € helps recognise what
€ encourages recognition of links between linkages the different pupils
different factors make between different parts
€ able to illustrate growth in knowledge of their learning
and understanding € helps identify areas with little
Web € computer generated webs can be pupil understanding,
developed (ICT skills) identifies misconceptions and
€ helps to develop the “big picture” of necessary changes in short-
topic or learning term planning

€ pupils enjoy using organiser € can be used as individual or
€ creates active discussion class- based strategy
€ helps differentiate categories e.g. “blow” € helps build up a picture of
Triangles “pluck” “hit” division in musical what helps pupils learn -
instruments identifies imbalance of
learning opportunities
€ when learning objectives placed on € helps teacher prioritise
ladder it is more likely that a review learning objectives
about learning takes place € useful mechanism for sharing
Ladder € encourages identification of key learning learning objectives with
€ helps pupils come to decision on pupils
€ very useful for comparing and € gains an understanding of
contrasting pupils’ skills at identifying
Venn € easy to use in summarising knowledge similarities and differences
and demonstrate learning
€ enables teachers to avoid what is € releases crucial lesson time
already known for more important items
KWL € pupils react favourably to reporting on
what they have learned against what
they wanted to learn
€ start them off with the plus! € the “i” section is the most
€ easy way to get them to identify what difficult in early stages but
PMI they liked and did not like, found useful worth persevering with
or not

There are many others. Collect them, use them, share them!

Key texts or resource:
1. for an excellent introduction to graphic organisers.
2. Others include, (see Mrs. Dobbs’ website - it is a