For a while I had been considering how to reduce the workload when it came to marking and providing detailed feedback to students on their successes and areas for improvement. I’ve toyed with a variety of ideas over the past two years of teaching; some of which have been more time consuming than expected whilst others were such a flop (I won’t even share those ones).
My usual approach to marking is that I identify spelling mistakes of topical key words throughout each piece of work. I use codes for simple things like underlining, adding titles etc. and dots to identify where punctuation and grammatical errors are within extended writing tasks.
I will add comments throughout and provide 1 to 2 questions where I would expect a response to be made during Directed Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT) as directed through school policy. However to be honest I’ve recently changed this technique as I’ve been faced with two issues. Firstly because books are marked every 4 lessons students have found it difficult to go back and answer questions or improve work from 3-4 lessons ago meaning I’ve had to explain what the task was again in order for them to improve it. Secondly I found that responses were short and lacked detail. I want DIRT to reflect improvements to work and to show progress, so towards the end of last term I decided to try a different approach – I now write several questions/comments or provide a ‘Level Up’ task, pupils then choose one piece of feedback to respond to and work on during DIRT. Sometimes in their books other times in a DIRT sheet This has encouraged a focus on a developing and truly improving work.
Marking is extremely time consuming and want to ensure it has impact on student progress, as I’m sure we all do.
Here are a few examples of my efforts to reduce marking whilst retaining effective feedback.
1 // Simple method. Before marking, I’d write a general statement with options for the skills developed in the lesson. After reading the work, I’d simply cross-out the skills that were not applicable and any of the statement that did not apply to some individuals. I’d then write in their target level and highlight the statement/s the student needed to do to progress.
2 // Another relatively a simple method, but slightly more time consuming. Before marking I would look at what we covered and write a series of comments usually linked to the learning objectives of the lesson/s. After having read the work I’d use the traffic light system to demonstrate how well they achieved the objective/s i.e. green = met fully, amber = almost there, red = not achieved. I’d then highlight the statement on how they could improve and progress.
When I used approaches 1 and 2 it was in my previous school, I’d never even heard of DIRT at that point. As a department we’d give pupils time to read feedback but if I’m honest little was done to act upon the advice and feedback given. Once a term I would get pupils to read through their feedback and write themselves 2-3 targets on how they could improve over the rest of the term but I felt marking had little impact. The SOW were very intensive and left little time for going back to previous classwork without it impacting upon assessments – if content wasn’t covered, they would have been unable to complete assessments in full. No fault of my previous HoD, she inherited them when she was flung into the role. However this time since I have control over the schemes of work, I’ve ensured that DIRT has been incorporated throughout each term.
3// My third attempt has been more recent was mainly created to support non-specialist staff in my department. However since they both teach split groups with me as the other teacher – I have been left to do the marking.
As you can see I suggested two approaches to my non-specialists. First approach involved the teacher writing the letter and number in the pupil’s book, then during DIRT or as a starter the relevant comments were displayed on the board. Pupils then wrote down the associated comments . The other option was that the teacher simply wrote the comments themselves which was more time consuming for them, but meant pupils could immediately act upon feedback when the time was given.
When I trialled the first approach it worked to some degree, however I felt it took up valuable time when pupils could have been responding to comments and improving their work.
4 // My final and most recent approach was inspired by this twitter post from @fiona_616.
— fiona old (@fiona_616) January 22, 2015
Some kind of marking grid feedback-esk idea had crossed my mind in the past, but I felt it would be too time consuming to create plus I didn’t know where to start. After see this tweet I felt inspired to give it a go and guess what it was easy. Since I was often writing the same or very similar comments, it has worked out much easier to mark and provide feedback using marking grids.
Already I’ve used them to provide feedback on a variety of pieces of work.
I started with using the feedback grid to provide group feedback for a group project and presentations. Here I highlighted two stars and then one wish.
Then I used the grid to provide feedback on a levelled task. Again I used the two stars and a wish technique.
And more recently I used them to provide detailed feedback on end of topic assessments. Here I simply highlighted all that applied in the successes and 2-3 areas for improvement.
In the last week of term 3 my students received their assessments and feedback grids. We spent an entire lesson learning how to peer assess effectively and how to take on board the feedback that was given. It proved to be a very effective lesson.
Initially students started by reading their feedback, the successes highlighted in one colour and the areas for improvement highlighted in another. I highlighted the level they achieved overall, but for some omitted the non-applicable details of the criteria. I provided kind comments for most in the general comments box and for some gave them a question or task to level up on – not needed for the majority though.
Next students passed their assessment and feedback to a friend who then read it and in green pen they made comments on the skills achieved. They then read the feedback I’ve provided and we discussed it. Most felt the feedback was relevant, phew. They then spent time providing kind, specific and helpful comments in the students book.
Finally the work was returned to the student and they created a mind map on the skills they needed to develop or what they felt they needed to do to reach their target levels. I must admit that after the lesson I was humbled and impressed by their comments to one another, not only had they been specific and helpful, they were kind and respectful taking into consideration each others needs, abilities and feelings. They were demonstrating ownership of their progress and when some questioned what the level equates to in terms of GCSE grade they showed a desire to improve.
Here’s an example of a marking grid I have on display in the window (sorry for photo quality). The green pen are the students comments on the skills achieved in this piece of work by their peer.
I’d definitely recommend using marking grids. Although it may appear like more work initially, once you fly through the sets of books it’s totally worth it.
Thanks for the inspiration Fiona Old.
Hope these ideas are of use.