Shirley began her career as a primary teacher, working for 10 years in the Inner London Education Authority. She became a primary mathematics consultant and was then seconded for two years to one of the first development agencies for KS1 test writing (CATS). This was followed by 10 years as a lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Education, University of London. During this time Shirley directed a number of national research projects focusing on curriculum and assessment issues. She is now an international freelance consultant, running courses, researching and writing.
Shirley’s passion is formative assessment because it encapsulates what is most important in education: empowering children to become confident learners who know how to learn. She is known for taking the principles of formative assessment and encouraging teachers to experiment with ways in which they might be applied. Many thousands of teachers have worked with Shirley or read her books and, through them, the practice of formative assessment is continually evolving and developing. Every year Shirley runs action research learning teams: groups of about 30 teachers. Each team meets with Shirley three times a year, for starting point ideas and principles, discussion and feedback, culminating in a showcase to local schools on Day 3. One-day courses keep teachers up-to-date, but the learning teams create individual experts in formative assessment, schools as centres of excellence, model classrooms and an LA resource for future development. Because of the power of this model of development, Shirley has continual requests for teams to be led both in the UK and the USA.
Shirley has written a number of books for teachers about formative assessment. Her books are always best sellers, written in an accessible, example laden style and are considered a vital resource for those committed to the power of formative assessment. (See the publications page for a hotlink to the publisher). The publication in August, 2018 of ‘Visible Learning: Feedback’ marked Shirley’s first jointly authored book with the globally renowned educator John Hattie. Shirley’s latest publications are ‘A little guide for teachers – Formative Assessment’, ‘Unlocking Learning Intentions and Success Criteria’ and ‘Collective Student Efficacy: Developing Independent and Inter-dependent Learners’.
In 2007, Shirley was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Greenwich.