If there is one active assessment strategy that is under-used and it is drawing.
How often do we actually get children to draw their ideas out? Not often enough. Drawings can be used right across the curriculum and sometimes they are better than asking children to explain their thinking just using words.
There’s a book by Richard White and Richard Gunstone from 1992 that has probably disappeared from CPD must-haves and book lists but it’s one that has helped shape my thinking.
Probing Understanding is something I still refer to today because it gets under the bonnet and intelligently articulates formative assessment. In this book, one of the key strategies the authors draw our attention to as a way of investigating and unpicking children’s thinking is the use of drawings. They say that they are “very open, with few limits on how the student may respond.”
That’s true. Drawings can be less formal and less structured and what you produce is often quite revealing and reveal types of understanding. As White and Gunstone comment,
They allow the teacher to see, and the student to reveal, qualities of understanding that are hidden from other procedures.
Drawings allow students to open up more in ways that writing might not allow. It’s a robust technique. See for yourself just by asking children to “Draw a scientist” and see what you get back. Studies have shown that you get plenty of stereotyped thinking but associations are changing.
We need to seize on the visual narratives that children hold and not let them go to waste. If they can draw an idea or feeling then let them do it but let them annotate them too. Take a look at the drawing below from a Year 2 child and her thinking about how shadows are formed and a Year 6 boy and his thinking about how we see. Both are fascinating.