Marking: what’s important to us?

This post is the second of a series of three about the impact of our recently updated feedback and marking policy at Wellacre Academy. The first is here Marking: why bother? and the third will follow shortly.

Credit: TFL

Way back in the spring term I blogged about the beginning of our journey towards a new marking and feedback policy, and this follow-up has been long since overdue. The new policy has been in place for a term and a half now, and is very much part of our daily practice at Wellacre. But I was inspired by Tom’s #15MF last week to turn back the clock momentarily and look back at the guiding principles that we’ve tried to embed.

I began our staff launch with four key – but possibly uncomfortable – questions:

  1. When was the last time you accepted sub-standard work from a student even when you knew they could do better?
  2. When was the last time you marked some books only because you thought someone (head of department / SLT /Ofsted) would check?
  3. When was the last time you wrote a target for a student knowing they probably wouldn’t read it (or not caring if they did)?
  4. When was the last time you left your formative comments until the very end of a unit  (when it was too late to improve anything)?

In common with so many schools, our imperative to change was the idea of  improving the effectiveness of our marking WITHOUT spending more valuable time and teacher effort on it. This quote sums it up:

“Imagine what a difference it would make if all students knew what they were good at, knew what they needed to do to improveAND did something about it”

The ‘doing something about it’ is clearly crucial here. To illustrate the power of student action in response to feedback, I used this excellent clip with staff of Ron Berger in action.

Credit: RSPB

Subject areas then went through a ‘magpie’ process of sharing their existing good practice across other departments while benefiting from that of others – arriving at a few common strategies that all subjects felt able to implement. This wasn’t by any means a quick process but I felt it would lead to a much more effective and deeply embedded approach if we took the time to do it properly.

Our full feedback policy is here (PDF link): Feedback for Learning – you’re welcome to share it, as we in turn have been influenced by others. The work of @hthompson1982, @murphiegirl, @davidfawcett27, @headguruteacher, @learningspy and @huntingenglish have been particularly invaluable to us during this process, and I would encourage everyone to read their blogs on the subject (listed here). If anyone else thinks I’ve missed them off, please do say so!

All marking at Wellacre Academy should now fit into one of the four categories in the summary version of the policy. Marking for any other reason is likely to be an inefficient use of teacher’s time, and our staff are now encouraged to think about why they are marking any particular piece of work: if it isn’t going to lead to student action, don’t do it!

One-page summary of our feedback policy

One-page summary of our feedback policy

What this Looks Like in the Classroom

Every lesson:

  • Teachers share learning objectives and tell students how their progress will be assessed against these – including which pieces of work will be marked, and how.
  • Teachers make success criteria explicit before students start any pieces of work that will be marked in detail.
  • Students are confident that assessment and feedback will be linked to these criteria.

On a regular basis:

  • Selective self or peer marking will be planned for and encouraged.
    Students expect verbal feedback from their teacher so that areas of difficulty
    are addressed promptly.
  • Opportunities are given wherever appropriate for students to act upon verbal
    and written feedback.
  • Students are encouraged to check their work for common literacy errors, and
    self-correct as directed by the teacher.

Every 4-5 lessons (at least):

  • Teachers use one of the suggested ‘closing the gap’ strategies listed in appendix 2 – or similar – to mark a significant piece of work in detail.
  • The first section of the next lesson is devoted to students responding to and
    acting on their feedback. Teachers must ensure students understand what is expected of them. Although many schools refer to this as ‘DIRT’, we prefer to call it ‘MA.D time’ (from a suggestion by @Miss_MorganWA) because students must Make A Difference to their work.

An overwhelming number of our staff are now saying that they are spending less time but marking more effectively. Some subjects are also finding more and more creative ways to apply the policy to their own purposes, while maintaining the key principles. In the third and final post in this series (coming very soon), I’ll include some examples of the policy in practice.

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About Stacey Partridge

Assistant Principal responsible for Teaching & Learning and CPD, Stem, Transition & primary liaison. Applied Learning Quality Nominee, CEIAG, Prince's Trust and SMSC. Wellacre Academy Flixton, Greater Manchester
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3 Responses to Marking: what’s important to us?

  1. Pingback: Marking: how much is too much? | Making Our Best Better

  2. Pingback: Something like a phenomenon: Lesson on a Page | Making Our Best Better

  3. Pingback: What happens in our best lessons, and how do we know? | Making Our Best Better

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