Written feedback without grades/levels

Written feedback without levels/grades

Ben Hill – 30th November 2013

Marking time: 45 minutes for 27 books (BUT see below for a few caveats)

Ok, so looking at this picture you’d be forgiven for thinking that I had this approach nailed. In actual fact, this is a particularly good example of a student who got the idea of responding to my written feedback straight away, but it hasn’t all been as easy as this!

Here’s what I’ve been trying with my GCSE science classes, and why:
  • Writing students an ‘EBI’ in the form of a question or instruction – this is to make the idea of responding to feedback pretty foolproof in students’ minds. I tend to tell them “If I’ve written you a question, write me an answer!” and even flag up where I’ve done this with sticky arrows, just to be sure!
  • Not using grades or levels – instead, I’ve adopted the SOLO taxonomy symbols (and I’m slowly training my classes to use the language and symbols themselves) so that the idea of progress and continual refinement/redrafting is emphasised over the limiting ‘goal’ of reaching a target grade. I tend to use phrases like “make one improvement to your work” or “try to give me your best possible answer” a lot.
  • Marking little and often – one piece of work marked by next lesson is much more effective than an entire book / folder marked three weeks after then fact.
  • Building in TIME to the start of the next lesson – call it MAD, DIRT or whatever you like, but teacher time spent marking is completely wasted if pupils aren’t given time to do something with it. My classes are getting used to the idea – about ten minutes at the start of every second or third lesson seems to work for me.
  • The stamp helps – I *ahem* borrowed mine from a previous school; it just stops me having to write the same thing over and over.
  • Choosing carefully what I mark, and what for – this is vital to achieve an overall reduction in marking time, while increasing the QUALITY of marking. This means I usually nominate one piece of work for close marking rather than the ‘guilty teacher’ trick of trying to mark everything and not managing it.
  • Checking that they’ve at least tried to respond – pupil effort is what I’m looking for initially, quality can come later. Yes, this takes a bit more time but I can usually do it within the lesson. Oh, and there probably needs to be a consequence for pupils that don’t, otherwise they’ll never get the habit.
Here’s a few more examples – good and bad!

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