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What could/should happen to work that the teacher doesn’t mark?

April 7, 2015

This blog post could be filed under “the bleedin’ obvious” but here it is for what it is worth. In our school we have recently been looking in detail at a marking, feedback and “closing the gap” policy. To read about it, and to download a copy click here. One of the fundamental principles of the policy is that the “marking load” needs to be managable and that we need to focus on marking and giving feedback on targeted pieces of work (and this feedback is acted on to “close the gap”). A legitimate question is what should happen to the work that we don’t mark? How do pupils know if the work they have produced is good quality? How do they know the work they have produced is right? These were questions I also struggled with during a book scrutiny when I once picked up a book that had not been marked (by the teacher or a pupil) for over 20 lessons.

Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) has written a great recent blog on Mindset, Attitude and Behaviour and in it he talks about ensuring pupils self check the answer (tick or correct) their work as we go through answers with them. This is a similar mantra to the Accountable Revision section (linked with Show Call) in Teach Like a Champion 2 by Doug Lemov (@Doug_Lemov). Here “check or change” is the phrase used to ensure that what has been discussed is acted on and to make students more accountable for improving their work (more on this later). For a review on this “must buy” book please click here. Ross Morrison-McGill (@TeacherToolkit) wrote a recent blog on “What not to Mark?” and again this got me thinking.

There is lots of guidance on how, why and what to mark, but what about guidance on the work that doesn’t get marked?

The message to teachers is clear- marking needs to be selective and of a high quality. Feedback needs to “close the gap”. But again, what happens to the work that we don’t mark? When it comes to lessons, I firmly believe the following two things: a) all pupils should know what they are supposed to be learning in the lesson (or series of lessons) and b) pupils should have some idea by the end of the lesson (or series of lessons) whether or not they’ve been successful. I don’t see anything contentious with those statements. This means we have to be crystal clear with our students about what they are learning about and then formative assessment during the lesson should inform pupils (and the teacher) whether they are being successful with regards to stated outcomes. Please note, I am not saying that all pupils should be successful every lesson. Rather that they should know whether the work that they have produced represents success against the “expected outcomes”. If every pupil is successful every lesson (and we observe them being fully engaged in their learning) then it is likely the work is not challenging enough and they are merely engaged in work they can already do. David Didau writes (brilliantly and provocatively as always) here on this subject.

I mark my students’ books after every lesson (RAG123- for more read this by @Listerkev or this and this by me)  I do believe, counter intuitively, that I am in a position to comment on what should happen in lessons where formal marking will not happen. The reason is covered in this blog here. So, what should pupils/teachers do in the lessons when we will not be formally marking their books?

a) Live Marking. This can take on many forms. It involves the teacher circulating around the class and marking/assessing/annotating work as the pupil completes it. This should be done to promote thinking or to put the pupil back on to the right track and should of course always be linked to the expected learning outcomes of the lesson. It is very rare that a teacher can do this in sufficient quality and depth with every pupil each lesson. live This is from the appendices of our marking, feedback and “closing the gap” policy.

b) Verbal Feedback. I think this goes without saying. This should happen as often as possible. vfThis is also from the appendices of our marking, feedback and “closing the gap” policy.

c) Peer/Self Assessment (or Gallery Critique). This is when the work is assessed against clear assessment rubrics (usually called success criteria). There are a variety of ways to come up with the success criteria for a piece of work and one of the best ways is to show some exemplar work (perhaps even from one of the pupils) under a visualiser and the class, with guidance, can deconstruct the work to come up with success criteria. Work is then assessed by the pupil or their peer. Our Science Department have decided that all peer assessment done via 2 stars and a wish. This is a good idea for consistency. Invariably some pupils will struggle to give quality feedback, although this skill should improve over time. This is where gallery critique comes in to play. This ensures that each pupil’s work gets feedback from at least 2 of their peers. peer-selfThis is also from the appendices in our marking, feedback and “closing the gap” policy.

And finally: d) Peer/Self Marking. This is often confused with peer/self assessment. The difference here is that the answer (generally) is right or wrong. Peer/Self marking can often be seen as the poor little sibling to the more virtuous peer/self assessment. Whilst they are different there is nothing wrong with self marking. If books are collected in to assess work (perhaps 10 questions) that could have been self marked then that is not efficient use of a teacher’s marking time. If pupils are self marking then they are getting instant feedback on their work. The act can be as academically rigorous as the task that is set or the question that is asked. The whole process of self marking can be made more rigorous by making pupils accountable for their revision (revision in terms of improvements rather than relearning work). As Doug Lemov states in his book, all pupils should be active during self marking (or accountable revision). They will either be ticking their work (checking) or writing in the corrections when they are wrong (changing).This links well with Technique 10 which is Own and Track. This technique is about trying to create a culture where pupils will automatically correct/revise work and are therefore more accountable for (eventually) having the right answer. This can be as simple as this Maths example: The pupil had Q5 wrong (they had highlighted 5) when the correct answer was 15. The pupil had correctly identified that 15 was a factor of 30 and 75 but for some reason they went for 5 rather than 15 (getting HCF and LCM confused). When going through the answers the pupil then underlined the correct answer. This is far better than just having a cross by the pupil’s work. This would have been even better if she had written a small note in the margin about the difference between HCF and LCM. This is a similar example from Physics (the questions are on the previous page in the student’s book): The example below shows the difference when accountable revision doesn’t take place: Does the pupil actually know what a light year is? Maybe, maybe not. Would it have helped their learning if they had written in the correct definition? It certainly wouldn’t have hurt. My challenge is to ensure that I have a classroom climate where revision is something my pupils automatically do whenever they self mark their work. The fact that the above 2 examples come from the same student shows that I don’t yet have a climate of accountable revision. Pupils need to “own” their work and I need to track to ensure it happens.

Tasks/questions can be set that can pick up common misconceptions. A task could be “In one sentence define respiration and state where it happens”. It is possible that some students would state in their answer that respiration occurs in the lungs. This (respiration is breathing) is a classic misconception which can be hard to shift. This response (along with a correct response) could be written on the board or shown with a visualiser. The class can agree that it happens in cells as opposed to the lungs. Pupils that gave the correct answer can tick their work (check) whilst pupils that wrote lungs can insert the correct answer and make a note in the margin, perhaps something along the lines of “respiration and breathing are different processes” (change). This highlights WHY their original answer was wrong and may help to break the misconception that the pupil may have had. In Geography it could be tick your answer if you got it right (check) and add in the correct definition of depostion in the margin if you got it wrong (change). In History it could be tick your answer if you got it right (check) and rewrite the sentence to include one piece of evidence we just discussed if you got it wrong (change). In English it could be tick your answer if you got it right (check) and write down in the margin what writing in the third person means if you got it wrong (change).The bottom line is that all work (particularly written work) can be assessed in some shape or form during a lesson. We should take every opportunity do this and to make it meaningful revision a part of our classroom culture.

  • It means that work (and books) are marked between the formal marking of the teacher.
  • It means that pupils will know if they have been successful or not, and if they haven’t they know what aspect of the work they have been struggling with.
  • It means that making mistakes and having misconceptions are perfectly acceptable but there is a clear drive to get the learning right and to amend/change/revise until things are right.
  • It means the classroom mantra of “if it’s not excellent it is not finished” plays out in reality rather than just being a nice sounding piece of rhetoric.

The only piece of written work that can’t really be assessed is copying chunks of text from a book/the board into your books. I’m sure we would all agree that in the overwhelming majority of cases that this is a complete waste of learning time.

Feedback welcome as always.

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  1. PamPam Knapp permalink

    Many, MANY, thanks for this. Although I have periodically used these techniques, your article was like a settling of dust in the ‘must make it matter’ marking frenzy that in my case always seems to revert to ‘mark it all’.

    I took to my Easter marking of persuasive essays and analysis with renewed purpose rather than deflated resignation. I have even spent this afternoon designing a visual prompter for ‘next step’ marking. Therefore you have been an inspiration as well as a savior of time and purpose.
    Pam K

    • Many thanks for taking the time and effort to read and comment. I’m very glad if the blog was in any way useful. Many thanks again and I hope your marking is now done for Easter. 🙂

  2. So you’re arguing here that everything has to be marked in some way? So there won’t be anything unmarked?

    I think that there is a big place for notes and diagrams which are easiest to mark I check title,underlined & spelling. It’s not the fact they’re notes that matters it’s how they were derived or consequently used that matters.

    • Hi Dawn, I’m only suggesting that there are many simple assessment opportunities that can be missed. These either lead to the teacher taking the books into mark (inefficient perhaps) or to the books looking untouched for long periods of time. The notes and diagrams you’ve mentioned sound ideal for you to mark because you have a clear assessment rubric to mark them with. Perhaps the biggest point of the blog was to create (or further nurture) a culture where pupils check and improve their work when we go through answers. I know my classes are not quite there yet. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment,

  3. Reblogged this on BlogBJMock – Y Byd a'r Betws and commented:
    Marcio ac asesu – ymarferol iawn llawn syniadau o gwahanol mathau o ddulliiau asesu/marcio.

  4. Thanks Mr B. This is a great reference point for me to delve into new approaches to marking and assessment. Thank you for sharing. It is difficult to try them all at once so I will take one from those mentioned and trial. The students will enjoy something fresh I have no doubt. Diolch.

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