Thinking-Focused Marking

Yesterday Heads of Department and SLT spent a day looking at exercise books across our school. Here is what we learnt.

There is lots of excellent practice across the school, which is efficient in terms of teachers’ time and leads to learning. We photographed lots of examples of this and I will post them all in the second part of this blog along with the reasons why I think they’re successful.

Focus on the Thinking

Collectively, there are a few things that we should be thinking about. All of them can be united by this question: will this piece of feedback lead to learning? I would like to clarify what we mean by this because it means more than just phrasing feedback in a way that elicits response. Where pupils haven’t demonstrated what we were looking for or fulfilled our success criteria for the lesson then this must be because their way of thinking about or approaching the task was not right. In other words, where we see areas for improvement, it means that we want pupils to think about the task differently. Therefore, the question I would ask is: how will this piece of feedback require pupils to change their thinking about the task in order to move forward?

A related issue is that of knowledge vs skills. As we have moved to an increasingly knowledge focused curriculum, I’m seeing more and more feedback which focuses on knowledge. Whilst this isn’t unhelpful, I don’t imagine that it’s the most efficient use of teacher time. If I wanted to improve pupils’ recall of factual information then I would use a test or quiz as part of my lesson and peer mark this to provide a quick overview for all pupils of gaps in their knowledge. Writing a closed question in an exercise book such as ‘What is one way to prevent this type of coastal erosion?’ (not naming Geography – made up example!) seems to me to be a really inefficient way of improving pupil knowledge. Rather, feedback on written responses should focus on deepening thinking and improving pupils’ expression of knowledge: this is where teachers can add the most value.


Question 1: How will this piece of feedback require pupils to change their thinking about the task in order to move forward?

Question 2: How will this piece of feedback help pupils to deepen their responses or make their thinking more sophisticated?

Some Best Practice Examples

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