Two years ago, I embarked on an action research project for my Master’s (MA) dissertation. I began by attempting to find out how effective Assessment for Learning (AfL) practices were at my school. Rudimentary practices like sharing learning intentions, exemplars and formulation of success criteria were used across the school, but how far were these really contributing towards authentic independent learning, so that pupils were active agents with a sense of enquiry about their learning? All too often, pupils demonstrated quite a passive and compliant approach when such practices should legitimatise and promote pupil voice and ownership of their own learning.
AfL strategies are now common practice in most classrooms (Swaffield, 2011). These strategies aim to enable pupils to engage in independent, self-assessment of their own learning, moving towards increasing autonomy as learners (Swaffield, 2011). Much emphasis is placed on teachers' questioning and feedback to assess pupil understanding and support progression; however, little reference is made to pupils' questioning, with there being an historic 'scarcity of pupil initiated questions' in lessons (Whittaker, 2012, p.588). This was also my experience as a teacher of twelve years. If a critical aspect of self-assessment is the learner recognising when further clarification is required, pupils' questions should dominate classrooms where AfL strategies are used; however, often they do not. There is a conspicuous absence of pupils’ questions in classrooms paralleled with a powerful presence of those asked by teachers.