The Teaching Civil War – Marking & Feedback by @MrBelkHistory

“I’ve got a pile of marking taller than me”, “All I do all weekend is mark”, “I love the teaching, but can’t physically carry on with the marking workload”. Sound familiar? That’s because it is. These taglines epitomise our career, driving away potentially brilliant people from a profession which gives a lot but takes so much more.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Liam Belk and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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On Tuesday last week, through conversation in a CPD session led by the great James Ashmore @moralguardian co-author of The New Middle Leaders Handbook (whose book you should definitely read) I was told that Ofsted had changed their inspection criteria for marking and feedback. Ofsted now say in official documentation:

“Please do not report on marking practice, or make judgements on it, other than whether it follows the school’s assessment policy. Also, please do not seek to attribute the degree of progress that pupils have made to marking that you consider to be effective or ineffective”

Well, well, well… it seems as if we have woken the sleeping giant, countless conversations about marking, workload, retention issues have brought forward the highest order in the land and in one swoosh of their policy making pen, they change the game. Or do they? Is this the time for effective change? Two-fifths of new teachers quitting the profession after five years suggest that now is the time to lose these chains, to implement policy created, developed, and put into practice by teachers.

So that’s what I did, during our CPD we were given the opportunity to write our own framework for effective feedback and I’d like to share it with you, in hopes that it will inspire you to re-write the existing, ineffective, unsustainable policy which destroys evenings and weekends without any hint of remorse.

1. Learning should take place throughout the feedback process, so by definition, should involve pupils at every step.

Start your effective feedback strategy with the onus being in the right place! I hear so often that teachers believe they are working harder than their students, and often they are!!! Pardon the exclamation marks, allow students to reflect on their work before hand in, during hand in, and after. Allow them to shape their own feedback with what will help them.

2. Verbal feedback is encouraged both on an individual and group level but this should not be evidenced.

Because for god sake, who is that verbal feedback stamp for? You hate it, the kids don’t have a clue why it’s there, and what are we doing? Take the time after a piece of work to reflect verbally with students, talk to them, and ask questions. This is a vital part of the feedback process overlooked by so many.

3. Feedback is encouraged day-to-day on an informal level to secure understanding and improve relationships between staff and students.

During my time in the classroom I have not seen a better catalyst for improving student-teacher relationships than when the teacher emphasises helping a student improve and putting it at the forefront of everything they do. Again, take time to discuss ways in which progress can be made and for their sake, don’t worry about evidencing it.

4. Teachers should give feedback when they feel it will make a substantial difference to pupil progress.

And by this I mean is the feedback you are giving or the way in which you are giving it allowing your students to make progress? Why are we spending ¾ of our time marking when results have plateaued and students aren’t seeing impact? Written feedback is a vehicle which can be used to transport students to the land of high achieving academia but not for all – we differentiate our lessons on ability but why do we not differentiate how we give feedback?

5. Self and peer assessment is advised throughout SOW’s with limited teacher input except pre-written guidance.

More of a cultural shift in regards to feedback here, let me explain; have them self and peer assess each other’s work from an early age. It doesn’t just give them a better than working knowledge of the existing mark schemes which will be used to assess them towards the end of their course, but again, as I mentioned before, puts the onus back on the students to produce and assess high quality work.

6. Teacher assessment should be used to gauge understanding in units of work but this can be done as a whole class system.

Whole class marking crib sheets are becoming the next big thing for feedback, and why not? They save time, offer individualised targets and tackle misconceptions right off the bat.

See @MrThorntonTeach on twitter and his #markingcribsheet for inspiration.

That’s it, 6 bullet points which reaffirm my view of how feedback should be used. If you can implement any of these into your school/department/classroom then I believe you will see the benefits straight away.


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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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