Ruth Johnson

Principal Research Manager
Speaking at


Using assessment and feedback to develop students’ collaborative problem solving skills

Collaborative skills have global prominence, as evidenced by the inclusion of collaborative tasks in the most recent PISA. The Education Endowment Foundation equates the impact of collaborative learning approaches on attainment to an additional five months of schooling. However evidence from the UK and abroad suggests that structured collaborative problem-solving activities in schools are rare.
This session will report on a study conducted jointly by Ruth Johnson of the AQA research department and Ayesha Ahmed of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education that investigated how students’ individual contributions can lead to more effective collaborative problem solving in groups.
The study focused on 15-year-old students participating in robotics tasks. We filmed the students participating in group work, collected teachers’ observational notes, and asked teachers to make comparative judgements of students’ performances with regards to the discussion, problem solving and social elements of the interactions. Analysis of this data enabled us to identify features that are important for good participation in collaborative problem solving.
The findings of this project have been used to develop resources to support the teaching of collaborative skills and help teachers to provide useful feedback for learners, which will be shared in this session.


After 15 years as an English teacher and latterly as a Head of Sixth Form Ruth left teaching to work at AQA and also to study part-time for a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D). Her doctoral thesis took a critical look at GCSE English and asked how the assessment served to exclude and include students from different social backgrounds. She now works in the Centre for Education Research and Practice (CERP) at AQA and has a research interest in difficult to assess skills. She is currently working on a project looking at different ways to assess practical science skills.