Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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Mrs Humanities shares… how I cut down my marking workload.

mrs humanities shares

If there is one thing that has had the biggest impact on my work-life balance it has to be assessment and marking. There was once a time when marking took me several hours an evening and several over the weekend. I had a marking timetable and felt I had to rigorously stick to it to ensure I ‘passed’ book scrutinises.  I’d worry if my books weren’t up-to-date yet also felt that marking has little impact on student progress.

Nowadays I spend a few hours a week out of directed time marking and assessing. No longer do I drag a bag of books home with me. No longer do I have a books and assessments piling up by the door over the holidays, calling and beckoning me to mark them instead of resting. Yet I see more progress taking place in my classroom than ever before. How? Well here’s my secret, I started to refuse. I rebelled. I researched. I implemented. Okay, there was more to it than that, here’s how…

  1. Adapt to School Policy
    My last school had a every 4 lessons policy; books required success comments and next steps to act on during directed improvement and reflection time. To start with they were written comments then I started to use a feedback grid instead – these consisted of a bank of comments in which I’d expect students to achieve, followed by a bank of comments that students may need to do to improve their work.
    GCSe exam questionHaving these in place helped me to live mark and ensure the feedback I’d given was evidenced to save having to write verbal feedback in books. I’d carry a highlighter and highlight the achieved criteria, would put a dot on the criteria to work on next. When I’d collect in the work, I’d already done half the marking and could simply finish it off and highlight one or two of the ‘next steps’ criteria for students to do during DIRT.
  2. Meticulously planned feedback
    Next step has been planning when and where to give feedback across the school year. My department and I have looked at the work we get students to complete and figured out how we can assess progress over time. We’ve introduced a spiralling curriculum in which skills and content repeat throughout topics allowing us to spread out formative and summative assessment. The provision of feedback has been carefully plotted to ensure students can act on it in a timely fashion but so they can also make use of it in the long term when they come back to similar skills or content.
    Assessment outline.png
  3. Less is more
    Alongside careful planning of feedback across the year, we’ve reduced what we mark to ensure that feedback is high quality and effective. For example at GCSE we give students 3 sets of exam style questions for each unit to assess their understanding of the content, we don’t mark their notes unless students ask. We use assessment for learning strategies in class to check understanding and to pick up on misconceptions along with verbal feedback. The exam style questions are roughly undertaken every 2-3 weeks. Despite not marking the classwork, I know where my students are through discussions, live marking and assessment for learning strategies.
    booklet pages
  4. Create a feedback-friendly classroom
    I’m a huge fan of feedback-friendly classrooms whereby teachers are not the only providers of feedback. I teach my students from day 1 how to feedback effectively. It takes times, scaffolding and persistence but it pays off.

    By the end of the year students are highly effective at self and peer-assessing. They do not take my place as the professional provider of feedback but they provide one another with feedback on their work and they have time to act on the feedback before they submit work. I feel it’s an important skill to teach to support students in becoming independent learners. More on peer assessment here.

  5. Feed-up, feedback and feedforward
    Feed up, might be better known as modelling expectations or to clarify the objective, before allowing students to engage with a task. Take feedback from students through assessment for learning and use it to forward plan. For this I quite like using the whole class feedback approach, I review all of the books without writing anything in them. Instead I go through the feedback with the class the next lesson. Feedforward Book Look Record
    I use the information I’ve gained from their work to then plan the following lesson or series of lessons to review ideas or misconceptions, to challenge and extend or change the course of the learning taking place.
  6. Live mark
    I love discussing work with students there and then in the classroom; the ability to identify successes with students and areas for improvement in the classroom is incredibly powerful. I carry a highlighter with me as much as possible and will highlight areas for improvement or put a dot in the margin to identify an area to review. I discuss progress with my students and encourage meta-cognitive questioning.
  7. Simplify feedback
    Make it simple. Use strategies such as marking codes, dot marking or comment banks to reduce your time spent writing feedback. More ideas here
  8. #FeedbackNOTmarking
    Since starting at this school in September 2016, I’ve strived to ensure marking and feedback is manageable, meaningful and motivating for myself, my team and my students. In doing so we’ve moved from marking to feedback as part of our departmental policy.

    For me, not having a set number of lessons in which marking has to take place has been freeing. I much prefer using the time I’d have once spent marking, planning lessons that actually lead to more progress. I use the feedback from student work and the discussions I have with them to integrate work that covers the targets I would have otherwise spent several hours writing into their books. Personally I prefer that to writing a comment that may never be acted on. More on the 3 pillars here.
    3 pillars of effective marking and feedback

At PedagooHampshire I was extremely surprised to hear of schools either still implementing excessive marking policies or even introducing them. I would have thought that with the Governments recent publication of the workload reduction toolkit along with all the reports on reducing teacher workload and evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation on feedback that there would be more schools moving away from such policies.

For more of my posts on #feedbackNOTmarking click here

Feel free to share any other ways you’ve reduced the workload associated with marking, feedback and assessment in your school.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 wellbeing strategies

mrs humanities shares

Wellbeing is being flung around from here to there these days…. and about time to be honest. However, my concern is that too often schools are merely paying lip service to staff wellbeing and not embedding it into the ethos and foundations of the school.

Here are 5 things I feel help to embed staff wellbeing…

1// Thank yous.
It doesn’t take much to sincerely say thank you. It doesn’t need to be a public affair (in fact it’s the little thank yous that I always find have the most impact), but it does have to be meaningful and sincere. A note card or post it note with those little words can make all the difference to somebodies day, being recognised for the hardwork and commitment they make to the school and the lives of their students. It doesn’t take much to show a sincere thanks.

2// Acts of kindness from Senior Leadership
Every now and then surprise staff with an act of kindness; leave surprise cakes or fruit in the staff room, take cups of tea to Middle Leadership meetings, provide snacks for twilight meetings. Anything that’s not forced and is supplementary to anything that insists participation by all staff like whole-staff wellbeing days… get rid of them. They’d rather have the time to do work so they can enjoy the weekend with family and friends.

3// Shout out boards
A little something I really like to see in schools is a shout out board, where staff can share the great things they’ve seen going on in the school. I’ve seen shout out boards have a range of focusses such as

  • T&L focused – ideas seen, magpied strategies, inspiration from further afield etc.
  • Wellbeing focussed – motivational quotes, thank you messages etc.

or just a mix of this and that worth shouting about. Personally I think making it anonymous makes it even more rewarding but that’s just my opinion.

4// Leaving early
Encouraging all staff to leave early at least once a week, but it mustn’t be made compulsory. Just that SLT should lead by example and shout about making sure one day a week you leave earlier than you do on other days, just half an hour can make a big difference. That could be half an hour for making a cake, spending time with your kids or other family members, going to an exercise class maybe even just half an hour more of reading. As long as that gained time is spent on you, just once a week.

5// School social activities
What about activities in school for staff, run by staff. Maybe an after school exercise class, termly quiz night, a morning yoga sessions, morning meditation? Although not all staff want to socialise with their colleagues, I think it’s nice to have the opportunity. When I started at my current school last September, I was thrilled to find they did several exercise classes after school. It meant I quickly got to know people and was made to feel welcomed and comfortable. The sessions were free, run for by staff for staff and we all donated money to a cause close to the heart of the teacher running it. As soon as my wedding is out of the way, I’ll be back to them this year.

What does your school do to embed and promote staff wellbeing?

Share your thoughts and ideas.

And don’t forget to check out Teacher5aday and Teacher5adayBuddyBox for more inspiration.

Mrs Humanities