Transforming Learning: Brazilian Teachers’ Use Learning Circles to Develop Leadership Projects and Promising Formative Assessment Practice

published 27 March 2024 updated 3 May 2024

Primary school teachers across Brazil have successfully completed the first Teacher-led Learning Circles for Formative Assessment (T3LFA) project cycle. Through developing leadership projects over the last year, teachers involved in the remote Learning Circles tested, implemented, and shared promising formative assessment practices that met the diverse needs of students in their classrooms.

The project’s ability to address learning variability was made exceptionally clear in Brazil, as teachers work in a variety of contexts, from quilombo to indigenous schools. The leadership projects developed as part of the T3LFA programme gave teachers the autonomy to use their creativity to address this, employing formative assessment to identify and address the specific learning challenges faced by their students.

For example, one teacher in Paraná, a state in the South of Brazil, dressed up as the Viscount of Sabugoa, a character from Brazilian children’s literature, to stimulate students' creativity and enthusiasm in the learning process. Creating this dynamic helped improve students' commitment, participation and engagement, positively impacting all in their classroom.

The positive impact of teacher’s leadership projects and formative assessment practices on student learning has transcended teachers’ classrooms and caught the attention of peers, principals, and education departments in Brazil. As a result, project teachers have been invited to share their experiences to create larger communities of practice.

Through sharing their T3LFA experience, the 22 teachers involved in the project in Brazil have also been able to reflect on continuing their projects beyond the project cycle. For two teachers involved, the project led to a desire to train at the graduate level, focusing on formative assessment in basic education. For another teacher from the programme, it resulted in them gaining the principalship of their school.

The desire of teachers to continue their leadership projects is in no doubt thanks to the contributions of the national research team and the support of the union, CNTE, who have stated that T3LFA is a pioneer in the Brazilian context. Despite numerous challenges, including overcoming structural precariousness that hinders teachers in quilombo and indigenous contexts accessing remote activities and the narrow outcome focused measures in various institutional evaluations across Brazil, CNTE have stated that project has been of great value for teachers' continuous professional development. This is because formative assessment, unlike its counterpart, enables teachers to address learning variability in the unique contexts of their classrooms.

Indeed, the use of 4000 externally produced outcomes evaluation measures across Brazil is replacing good teacher policy with standardised assessment practices. This was seen to be to the detriment of teachers, students and society. The Ministry of Education representative from the assessment department was present at the project’s in-person Latin America Cross Regional Learning Event in Bel Horizonte on 25 and 26 March 2024. Taking part in a robust exchange with teachers and union staff on the deprofessionalsiation caused by this approach, CNTE General Secretary Fatima de Silva, pointed out that having over 50% of teachers on precarious contracts in Brazil was preventing the formation of professional learning communities that were so crucial to students’ learning.

The project in Brazil concluded with the Latin America Cross Regional Learning Event in Bel Horizonte. The event provided the opportunity for all project participants to come together alongside a group of project peers from Uruguay. At the event, teachers from both countries shared promising formative assessment practices developed as part of their leadership projects and all participants, including representatives from CNTE, discussed how to continue to participate and advocate for Learning Circles as a form of Professional Learning and Development (PLD) to promote national uptake of the empowering PLD programme.

The next phase of the T3LFA project is to share the promising formative assessment practices identified by project participants in all its seven countries within and across education trade unions at the final closing conference which is scheduled to take place from 8 to 10 November in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Want to find out more about the Latin America Cross Regional Learning Event, see photos from the event here. You can also see photos from and read about previous events in Brazil, as well as even find out more about the work that is taking place across our six other project countries by looking at the Teacher-led Learning Circles for Formative Assessment page.