by Nat Moody
The principle of this group is to for members to experiment with new ideas and then share their experience with their colleagues and the wider teaching community. We draw on various resources on rotation. The aim is to celebrate and share approaches that can be used by staff in a variety of subjects easily within day-to-day teaching.
My task for term one was to focus on feedback, drawing on websites as a resource. I decided to experiment with my A2 Sports Psychology group. These students struggle with long answer responses and, as a result, their drive to improve their performance in this area can dip due to a lack in confidence; some feel that reaching higher grades is just not possible for them. When I have marked these responses in the past I have often found misconceptions in one or two aspects which have a significant impact on their final grade. Motivating this group to respond to my feedback independently is not easy. I feel this process is essential and I had been looking for a simple way to motivate them to do so.
During my research I found a post on www.teachertoolkit.com called ‘The Yellow Box’, which had been taken from The George Spencer Academy. Employing this strategy allows the teacher to mark a section of work in great detail, highlight that to the student via the yellow box. Feedback is then provided, focusing on the work in the yellow box only. The hope is the guidance given will have a positive impact on the entire piece of work without the teacher having to mark to entire piece in detail.
I have employed this method in a different way to meet the needs of my group. I have been marking the entire long answer questions as per normal. Instead of asking students to re-write or apply my feedback to the entire response which can be demotivating for a student who struggled to complete the work in the first instance; they only re-write the work highlighted in the yellow box in response to my feedback. Students approach responding to my feedback more readily, they are learning to identify areas within long answer questions that have a significantly negative impact on the entire piece and the work they produce in response to my feedback is focused on quality not quantity. This also saves me time when remarking work; in most cases the work in the yellow box that has been re- written by the students increases the grade of the piece, and also increases the confidence of my students when approaching a difficult aspect of assessment in this course.
Over the next few weeks other members of Nat’s focus group will feedback on everyday ideas that they have tried and tested. Keep checking back for more ideas!
Beaumont recently held it’s first Bring and Brag as part of a Teaching and Learning INSET. The idea is simple; every member of staff brought along an idea that could be easily explained in one minute, and the room was set up as a speed dating activity. In all, staff swapped ideas with around 10 other people and took away loads of new ideas! It was great to see everyone talking so enthusiastically about their own ideas, as well as making notes on what everyone else had to offer.
In between the two speed dating sessions, there was also a chance to have a look at the work that the Teaching and Learning team has been up to so far. Focussing on marking, two display boards were set up based on examples of great marking and ideas for reducing marking workload, and staff could also have a look at the numerous books laid out around the room. Andy Gray also set up a station demonstrating some of the new ideas for using technology in classrooms that will hopefully be adopted.
As an exit pass for the INSET all staff filled in a slip asking them two questions about what ideas they will take away from the session, and if there are any strategies for marking not already featured. Look out for a blog post on these ideas in the future.
By Jo Cavanagh
On the 23rd September Zoe, Nat and I had the privilege of being asked to deliver an INSET on marking and feedback to the teaching staff at the Hemel Hempstead School. Our presentation revolved around our journey in terms of marking of students work, creating a dialogue with students and our OFSTED experience. The important aspect of the session however, was to encourage Hemel staff to discuss and share their own best practice. We asked teachers to write on a post-it note one top tip for speeding up marking, encouraging dialogue, their best stamp – basically something to do with marking. Below are the ideas they came up with.
Teacher/student Dialogue ideas (in no particular order)
- Set a specific task that must be completed;
- Use a pre-prepared feedback sheet and get students to stick it in before taking books in;
- ‘Fix it’ – a section of work to rewrite;
- Set a clear and specific target with an example;
- Create half a dozen follow up questions that you project on the board at start of the next lesson and tell students which ones they need to look at when you write a comment; circulate, mark and put a sticker on;
- Verbal feedback and flag this with a stamp. Students write date, the feedback give and action they need to take;
- Essays have cover sheet which invites student comments;
- Assessment feedback; target grade; current grade; 2 positive comments and one target for improvement;
- Literacy support e.g. good x 3 means write 3 new words you can use;
- Don’t state the exact issue, give them a clue, get them to think about it e.g. what is wrong with the layout of this document?
- Use a ‘check your spellings’, ‘Capital letters’ and ‘full stop’ stamp to highlight errors.
- Ask a question to check student understanding;
- Encourage peer target setting using a mark scheme – to be checked by the teacher;
- Ask students how they could improve;
- Highlight effective work with a highlighter pen;
- Top Tip stickers;
- Pose a question with a timescale for the answer;
- Ask pupil to re-write the weakest paragraph of an essay. Explain how they could improve it;
- Star Task to extend student’s work if they have produced accurate work and everything is correct. Student then answers the question;
- Students write their own targets;
- Assessment cards for coursework that have rows for each accessible section and columns to show feedback and response for each deadline;
- Question that can be answered in one sentence;
- Sections in workbooks at key points for evaluation;
- Medal and a mission (medal =positive feedback; mission=how to improve);
- Students to copy questions they got wrong from mymaths HWK into their books – then have another go;
- Give a specific area for improvement linked to a grade/mark development;
- Make sure students get TIME to correct/develop work;
- Next step targets;
- Set a specific topic area as a target. Student then has to copy an exam question related to particular topic and complete in marking feedback time in class;
- Get students to write and comment on their progress in the lesson. What we have achieved.
With reports of teachers spending 60 hours a week working, there is always a need to consider how we can make life just a little bit easier. However many teachers quite rightly feel that time marking pupils’ work is simply one area which cannot be eaten in to – there is just no substitute for the feedback which pupils receive from properly marked work.
Our Teaching & Learning INSET focused on ideas that might help staff find ways to reduce the time spent marking, but without losing the quality of feedback which pupils receive. We wanted to look at how we could help students progress with effective and timely feedback and think about whether we are giving pupils the information and time they need to reflect and understand how they can improve in the future. As usual, in our small working groups, staff discussed what they currently do, their concerns and problems, and we shared ideas and tried to support each other in finding ways to reduce time but increase the impact of our marking strategies. We started by marking a piece of work individually and then looking at the ways we had approached this. Did we take the same amount of time? Did we find the criteria for marking helpful? What are we looking for when we mark? how long did it take and could we reduce the time taken?
Thanks to @Listerkev, Helen Wilson and Sarah Lofthouse have been trialling a system known as RAG123, where books are marked much more often (every lesson in an ideal world) and pupils take part in the marking by assessing both their effort and understanding. This powerpoint was discussed in the INSET, but there is lots more detail in this blog post (and the related links within it) from @ListerKev and on twitter using the hashtag #RAG123. The powerpoint used in our INSET also includes quotes from our own pupils when feedback was discussed by the student voice group. Some staff (eg Fiona Pinkerton in Science) use the idea of “Praises and Raises” codes – pupils receive a code in their book which they can then relate to a list of strengths and targets and find their specific feedback. There was a great deal of discussion about how the different ideas could be applied to various subjects and many staff thought about particular adaptions that they would make to a variety of ideas raised.
Moving onto the feedback we give to pupils, staff were asked to brainstorm about what would be totally ineffective and unhelpful feedback. We then looked at how we could address these issues. Examples included making feedback in a timely fashion and allowing pupils sufficient time to act on targets given. Through our student voice group, we also had thought from pupils about what was helpful to them when receiving feedback through marking – these ideas can be seen on the Power point.
A sheet of ideas about reducing marking workload was given to staff before they were asked to give some feedback to the T&L team on the INSETs run this year and also add their own ideas to some “Magic Marking” stars (some of these are already on the staff noticeboard, others will appear on the blog in a later post, in the T&L newsletter and on more cards for the black boxes).
Marking and feedback are a continual source of discussion among teachers, and there no real “right” answers. There are other ideas to read from Belmont Teach in this article. Hopefully you will find something in all of this to try for yourself – if you do, and you want to share you adaptations with us, please get in contact via twitter or email.