With marking listed as one of the three areas in the government’s workload challenge, none of us can afford to spend time assessing pupils’ work without the certainty that this effort will lead to further progress. These are our three steps to ensuring that assessment always leads to progress.
Step 1 – Target your feedback
One of the most common marking pitfalls is thinking about the assessment once the work has been completed. In order to take control of your marking, consider the tasks in advance. Then answer the following:
Which task in a unit of work is going to benefit most from the time and attention required by a detailed marking by you? This piece of work will often be an outcome that pupils work towards.
Which pieces of work will receive quicker and less time-consuming feedback to help get to the above outcome?
The outcome of this planning might look something like the structure below. All activities relating to assessment are in green. Each lesson in this structure contains some assessment or reinforcement of the standards, but the teacher is only doing a detailed mark at the end. The shape of this will differ depending on how much curriculum time you have and is based on 6 lessons in a half term:
- Lesson 1 – Share criteria / goals. Teach first content.
- Lesson 2 – Recap knowledge (self mark quiz). Teaching continues. Model answer with class.
- Lesson 3 – Continue teaching. Pupils produce short answer e.g. 2 paragraphs from an essay question. Teacher completes whole class feedback (or similar).
- Lesson 4 – DIRT based on whole class feedback to include redrafting. Teaching continues.
- Lesson 5 – Teaching continues. Pupils produce a short answer which is peer assessed.
- Lesson 6 – Pupils produce a final assessment. Teacher marks with formative and summative feedback.
This approach assumes that pupils are being set substantial work at regular intervals. It will need to be adapted where content is largely factual, but should apply to most subject areas.
Step 2 – Use time-saving methods
Assessment is all about correcting misunderstandings and ensuring pupils take the required next steps in their learning. As long as it achieves these goals, it doesn’t really matter what it looks like. If the assessment methods you are using don’t achieve these goals then stop using them!
I strongly advocate methods such as peer assessment, tick sheets and whole-class feedback because they achieve the desired aims with less cost in terms of teachers’ time. They are excellent interim assessment methods when working towards a piece of work that will be assessed formally and in detail. Crucially, these methods should help to correct misconceptions as the learning takes place so that teachers don’t end up correcting the same errors 30 times in individual feedback.
Here are some top tips on these time saving techniques:
- Keep it structured – give pupils clear criteria and things to look for.
- Make sure that criteria are accessible or well illustrated with examples.
- Ask pupils to use standard notation so that their feedback is clear.
- Give them time to discuss the feedback they have given and raise any questions.
Many departments have developed tick sheets which are pre-populated with learning aims, targets, models and more. Here are a couple of good examples by way of illustrating best practice:
Whole Class Feedback
This strategy involves reading the class’s exercise books but making comments on the whole class rather than individuals. Feedback is written onto a sheet which pupils stick in their books and then use for response.
I know that this strategy is being used widely in the English department and is really popular with the pupils. I’ve included as example from my own teaching below, as well as some examples of feedback codebreakers, another great whole-class strategy.
You can find further examples (including more photos) of efficient marking strategies in a previous blog post: ‘Marking Efficiently’.
Step 3 – ALWAYS ask for pupil response
…and allow proper time in the lesson for this.
Whilst it might not seem as though there is always time for this, DIRT is where the learning moves forward. If we want to make sure our feedback isn’t wasted, then we can’t afford to miss this step.
Examples like this are good because this pupil is being required to think about a gap in their knowledge and close it (whether or not they have done this fully in this particular response). The BEST examples of DIRT are where pupils are required to redraft a section of their work to include improvements and new learning. Here is a good example of some DIRT improvements based on an RS assessment:
So those are my three steps:
- Target your feedback
- Use time-saving methods
- ALWAYS ask for pupil response
Feedback has a huge positive impact on pupil progress, but it can also have a hugely negative impact on teacher workload. Now more than ever, it is important to reflect on the feedback we give and make sure its impact is proportionate to the time spent.
I hope this helps to save you all some time!