Middle School

Putting Theory to the Test – The Classroom Experiment

One of the most intriguing educational videos I’ve come across in the last year is a two-part BBC series called “The Classroom Experiment” (2010).  In this series, a middle-school class sees educational traditions and protocols changed by Dylan Wiliam, an expert on formative assessment from the University of London.  As we consider the start of a new school year, I strongly suggest this series as an example of educational theory in practice, and a great way to become energized for your new school year resolutions.  Questioning traditions and establishing new ideas can be a tough fight, and I’m appreciative that this series shows the effects, warts and all, as the students and teachers struggle to adapt to Mr. Wiliam’s suggestions.

The series features characters and plot-lines as intriguing as any soap opera.  We get to know the students, and their candor in expressing their feelings over the changes is refreshing.  The teachers embrace change, but we learn that hard work, honest reflection, teamwork and adaptation are all needed to produce growth.  Parents come away with a new-found appreciation of the rigor of today’s school.  And the plot twist between episodes 1 and 2 had me yelling across my office to my coaching colleagues.


Finding TV show episodes online can be a tricky proposition.  But if you go to our friend YouTube and search for “The Classroom Experiment episode 1”, you might just stumble upon the show.  Each episode is about 60 minutes in length.

Below are links and resources for a number of the classroom changes featured in the video:

“No more hands-up”:  choosing students randomly to respond in class.

Choosing Students to Answer Questions – from Suite101

Random Reporter – linked from PA Dept of Education

Random Name and Group Generator – from SMART Exchange

Colored Cups and Markerboards

Classroom Student Engagement Tips – from Edutopia

Whiteboarding in the Classroom – Dr. Dan MacIsaac, SUNY Buffalo

Classroom Anecdote on Colored Cups – from “Irrational Cube” blog

Make Your Own Mini-Whiteboards! – from

Feedback, not grades

Feedback on Learning – Dylan Wiliam video clip

Formative Assessment in Mathematics – Dylan Wiliam

Secret Student

Successes of the Secret Student – MissSMitch’s blog

Feel free to comment and share your favorite formative assessment resource!  Happy new (school) year!


By Bob Lochel

HS Math Teacher. Hatboro-Horsham School District, Horsham, PA.

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