Every Thursday we offer what we call ‘CPD on toast’ a short burst of CPD aimed at developing area of professional development. A couple of weeks ago I presented a session on Marking and Feedback.
Paul made an interesting choice in choosing me. Firstly, because I wouldn’t consider myself as a strong practitioner when it comes to marking. As an English teacher, marking seems to be a never ending battle and one that I never quite feel that I am winning. In addition to that, marking is not something I particularly enjoy. Did I say that out aloud? Yes, I know it is the most important thing we do and it informs our planning and sometimes there are real moments of joy – this week in point when I received the most fantastic piece of A level coursework – yet reading 60 essays on George and Lennie is enough to send even the most alert of people into some sort of comma. Yet present I did.
When considering a presentation for staff there are two things that immediately spring to mind for me: 1) Is it practical? Not in the sense that everyone gets up and starts pretending they are trees but CPD isn’t about lecturing. It isn’t about telling people you know what is best. It is about offering quick, practical strategies that staff can take away and implement immediately to help them with their day to day practice. 2) What had I learnt from the lovely Twitter community that I could pass on?
With this in mind, I set to work. Any marking presentation for me has to start with our literacy marking approach. After all, I am currently the Literacy Co-Ordinator. As like most schools, it is a standard approach using codes to highlight the literacy errors that students have made.
There are many schools of thought with regard to spellings and I outlined my practice to my colleagues.
Back in the day it started simply by identifying that a spelling mistake had been made.
Then step two encouraged students to copy the words out three times.
My current practice is to highlight the incorrect spelling for them by giving them the correct version. (Shock! Horror! I know this isn’t very independent!). I then ask students to copy the word out three times before contextualising the word within a sentence. For me, this is classic responding to feedback – you have spelt a word wrong – now let’s practice spelling the word and then you have a go at putting it into a sentence. Clear, visible progress being made.
I do a similar thing with punctuation. I identify where a punctuation error has been made, ask them to re-insert the punctuation into the piece of writing (clearly responding to feedback) and then ask them to construct further sentences that will use the piece of punctuation they have not yet demonstrated in action. This means, again, that they are having to do something with the feedback and are practising the skill in order to improve.
So what do we do beyond literacy marking?
Most schools now use a WWW and EBI or a two stars and a wish approach. This is something we have adopted as a summative response to work and target setting for the future.
My example above is not a shining example of a target (or the targets I usually write) because, I would also usually have an activity directly underneath – e.g. Write a sentence that summarises the use of the adverb ‘painfully’ in this extract. This enables students to consider their target and respond in order to develop their level of analysis.
To develop this further, we have started to use questions in our feedback. These are particularly useful in filling gaps of knowledge or extending students’ thinking when developing skills in responding to texts.
This is a great technique. It is quick for the teacher but challenges the student to extend their thinking. However, like all good thing the students need training to respond to the questions and monitoring to ensure the quality of response is good enough.
Similarly, if we are looking to make our students more independent in their own analysis of their work then the green and pink system works a treat. I first came across this in my old school but was reminded of this strategy by Sian Carter. We use this technique constantly in exam practices but less so with the exercise book which will now become a greater focus. Whilst marking the exercise book, you highlight a really excellent piece of work in green and a piece of work you feel could be improved in pink. Yet it is the student who explains why those two pieces have been highlighted in those two particular colours. They must identify the strengths of the piece of work highlighted in green and the weaknesses of the piece highlighted in pink. This means they have to really consider the merits of their own work. Examples below of my highlighting.
Verbal feedback stampers are a god send and really quick way to give feedback and make students more independent in the process of identifying why feedback has given and how it might benefit them. We are encouraging teachers when they are walking around the classroom and offering feedback to place a stamp in the students’ book. Once the feedback has been given, the student themselves can record what feedback was given, why it was given and how it will help them / has helped them improve their work. As the current Literacy Co-Ordinator, I also wanted to ensure TAs have verbal feedback stampers as they provide feedback to our students continuously.
I then collated other examples of effective marking in order to have students respond to feedback from Twitter:
- Students identify the two stars and a wish for their work. Teacher identifies their agreement.
- Students highlight where they have used the success criteria and annotate in the margin
- Students select pieces of work they absolutely want marked and why
- The use of codes
- The use of stampers
This was the first part of my presentation – marking and feedback in exercise books and quick 10 minutes to share strategies that staff could take away and implement the next day. For me, marking will always be a work in progress but some of the strategies above have made marking a little bit quicker and a little more productive / helpful from the students’ perspective.
And with all this in mind, I have managed to avoid marking for another twenty minutes and must now return to the 538 pieces I need to mark by tomorrow 😉
The full CPD programme is below.