Nikki Booth

Head of Music and Modern Foreign Languages at Wolgarston High School, Staffordshire.

Speaking at


What do teachers need to know about memory and how can assessment be used effectively to support long-term learning?

No one really knows how our brain works. In fact, as Dylan Wiliam says, it “is probably the most complex thing in the universe”. What has been useful, though, is that scientists and psychologists have developed numerous models to try and unpack this phenomenon. The most useful model, perhaps, is the notion of the multi-store model of memory which includes short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM). The STM has limited duration and is thought to hold only a few items of new information. To avoid decay, the information needs to be rehearsed so that it can pass and be stored into the LTM. The capacity of the LTM is believed to be unlimited and information stored there is potentially permanent. Paul Kirschner et al. (2006) suggest that learning requires a change in LTM. This is important for us as teachers because what we teach our students in a lesson may be forgotten weeks later. This session, then, will explore some of the key literature surrounding memory and forgetting as well as offer practical strategies as to how assessment can support long-term learning in the classroom.


Nikki Booth is a senior teacher, examiner, academic, and freelance concert pianist based in Staffordshire. Having spent several years being Head of MFL and Music, he is now Advisor for Assessment Research & Development at Wolgarston High School – a Visible Learning school – where he is also a trained “impact coach”. Having completed his Masters in Teaching and Learning with “distinction”, he is now studying for his PhD at Birmingham City University where his interest lies in formative assessment to improve teaching and learning, particularly in music education.


What is true formative assessment, why hasn’t it worked in schools, and how can we make it even better in the classroom?

There is over forty-years’ worth of research evidence to suggest that enhancing formative assessment (also referred to as Assessment for Learning) has a significant impact on student learning. Despite this wealth of research evidence and exemplification of good practice, however, there seems to have been limited effects on students’ outcomes nationally. It would appear that the term “formative assessment” is indeed complex, multifaceted, has become confused by schools in England and requires some unpicking.

Given that much research has shown that only limited ranges of formative assessment are frequently practiced within classrooms, this session, therefore, will explore: key literature in defining what true formative assessment is; how the term has become confused by schools; how true formative assessment can really make an impact on student outcomes; and how this can be harnessed into classrooms on a lesson-by-lesson basis. In order to do this, the following five key strategies for formative assessment will be explored; learning intentions and success criteria, showing evidence of student learning, providing feedback that moves learning forward, and peer- and self-assessment. The aim of the session will be to provide practical examples which have been tried and tested within classrooms that have been proven to make a positive impact on student learning.