Research School Network: The use of mini whiteboards in the classroom How can mini whiteboards support an evidence informed to teaching?

The use of mini whiteboards in the classroom

How can mini whiteboards support an evidence informed to teaching?

by Durrington Research School
on the

Teachers are all by now familiar with Dylan Wiliam’s view of formative assessment as being responsive teaching” and there are many useful research papers and articles outlining how to do this effectively (such as Inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the Mathematics Classroom). Formative assessment provides a great opportunity to find out exactly what students can do and, more importantly, what they cannot yet do. Rosenshine Principles of Instruction says that more effective teachers frequently checked to see if all students were learning the new material. They did this for two purposes:

1) Answering the questions might cause students to elaborate on material they have learned and augment connections to other learning in their long term memory
Alerting the teacher to when part of the material needs to be retaught.

2) Formative assessment lends itself particularly well to the use of mini whiteboards as they are a great way of quickly getting a snapshot of the whole class. Mini whiteboards are an excellent resource which, once students are trained on their use, can make a real difference to whole-class assessment.


- The easily-erasable nature of boards can help students become more willing to have a go – their answer is not set in stone” so they feel able to take a risk.

- Students sometimes feel that writing on mini-whiteboards is not really work” so in actual fact they do more than they would in their book!

- They can be combined with Think-pair-share” and used as a collaborative tool for students to come up with their best answers before sharing.

- Because the writing is large and clear, it is very easy to get a quick snapshot of the whole class – in a scan around the room an answer from everyone can be seen.

- Working can be shown clearly. This has the advantage over the quick show me 1, 2, 3 or 4 fingers” method of getting a response to a multiple choice question. Working or the thinking behind an answer can reveal a huge amount about understanding.

- They can be used to go step-by-step through a problem, getting students to hold up just the next stage of their answer at each step rather than the whole thing.

- They are excellent for the we do” part of I, we, you” modelling as errors can be picked up quickly and easily as they are made and before they are embedded.

- They give the teacher the opportunity to act immediately on what they see rather than having to wait until they get a chance to look in books.

- Particularly good examples can be easily shared with the class. It can often be useful to take two or three boards to the front and then ask the class to comment on them.

- Excellence can be celebrated and work can be compared, for example looking at two different answers from whiteboards and asking the class to critique them.

- Misconceptions can be easily picked up and addressed. If a significant number of the class have the same misconception this is a sign that this needs to be retaught.

- Students can try out” an answer on the board before transcribing it into their books, this way the teacher can check that they have it down correctly before committing it to paper.


- Doodling. This can be a distraction. Clear expectations are needed – lids on pens when students should be listening, clear rules that require only the answer to the question to be written on the board and nothing else.

- Answers or working rubbed out too quickly. The transient nature of the work can backfire – with I just rubbed it out” being said in response to a request for working
Lack of equipment. Pens run out quickly and are not necessarily treated with respect.

- Some schools make mini whiteboard pens part of their equipment expectations. It could be worth giving each student a pen to keep with them that can be swapped for a new one when it runs out.

- Students can be silly and noisy when holding up the boards. However they do not necessarily need to be displayed – even flat on a desk they make it much easier for a teacher to see student answers. It is important to think about routines and practice these so that students are used to how they will show their work.

- Practicalities of giving out whiteboards, pens and rubbers can be time consuming. Some teachers store a pack on each desk with the required equipment. Or as part of the classroom routine boards could be placed on the front desk of each column and quickly passed back.

Most of these disadvantages are down to routines and organisation – as with any equipment it is important to think carefully about the logistics of using them in the classroom and be extremely clear with expectations. The advantages do outweigh the disadvantages and using mini whiteboards can make a real difference to formative assessment in the classroom, making teaching truly responsive.

Deb Friis

December 2021

Deb is a maths teacher at Durrington High School. She is also a Maths Research Associate for Durrington Research School and Sussex Maths Hub Secondary Co-Lead.

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