Wading through exercise books hoping to deliver valuable marking is at times a daunting task. I see around 500 different pupils a fortnight and try to provide them all with regular valid comments, prompts and indicators for them to develop further in their learning. It is a vital task for all teachers to create consistency and quality through marking.
I see marking as a tool to recognise learning and pupil progress. Therefore it needs to provide a useful function for me for diagnostic planning as well as provide valid feedback and direction for pupils.
I attended a superb CPD session on the subject of feedback this week. Marking is one of many ways to provide feedback. To enable pupil growth, this feedback facilitates dialogue. This dialogue needs to be two-way and accessible. Here’s a taste of some of our discussions and conclusions during the CPD:
What is feedback? Giving information and advice about performance which is used as a basis for improvement.
When to give feedback? As immediately as is possible – when needed or requested, when there is opportunity for dialogue and empathy.
What to do with feedback? Allow time to respond to it, make modifications, creating opportunity for deeper application and challenge.
We were working collaboratively with local primary schools to raise the consistency and familiarity of expectations and standards in feedback and dialogue throughout all key stages in our locality. It was great to share some best practice and challenge ourselves to see what may be applicable in a secondary setting too.
We also shared practice in how to facilitate this feedback: using highlighters to indicate good aspects of written work, using a second colour to identify one aspect to improve upon; speaking with pupils while circulating the classroom, indicating the conversation and recommendations made by marking the page (with a V for verbal feedback) before the pupil continues work applying the advice given; leaving comments for stretch and challenge in an exercise book with scaffolded sentences or calculations to complete.
Or what about “Post-it forward”? This involves writing an improvement target on a sticky note, the pupil will respond to the target in their work and then explain how they have met it and stick the note over the place they believe they best demonstrate their improved learning and application.
Creating opportunities for self and peer-assessment encourages collaborative support and modelling among pupils and allows for verbal praise, stamps for great discussions, written application and group working, and using merit certificates wherever possible to promote this dialogue.
At our school, pupils believe effective feedback is as follows:
Pupils have time in class to respond to feedback in exercise books, which are then marked to demonstrate where progression has been made.
One-to-one opportunities in lessons enabling discussions of learning progress so far, and how to stretch further. Likewise teachers being able to identify and aid where additional scaffolding and/ or encouragement is necessary.
Marking and feedback to be regular and consistent with quick targets to respond to.
Setting numbered targets on the board for pupils to use directed improvement/response time.
Teachers to verbally explain concepts to gain understanding.
As a result, feedback on learning and progress is becoming more actively used and encouraged. Exercise books are becoming less “neat and tidy” because of our drive for this valuable dialogue and more personalised target-setting and diagnostic challenge.
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.