For parents and visitors reading our blog this is a version of our staff sharing and discussion document looking at marking and feedback. We are in the midst of lesson observations and book monitoring season and as we haven’t shared our marking ideas for a year-this is an opportunity to do so. Hope you enjoy it and that it makes sense!
Can we ever praise too much?
It’s always a lovely evening in November when Meols Cop descends on the Southport Theatre Complex to celebrate our annual Reward’s Evening. This year’s crop of exceptional students danced, sang, acted and banged their drums to the rhythm of joyous community applause and approval. The award winners, with their ties up to their top button and shirts firmly tucked in, marched proudly onto the stage to receive their certificates and the plaudits of the audience, especially from their own family representatives and friends. The year 11 leavers, more sophisticatedly and elegantly attired [in most cases!] were equally delighted with their prizes and the exuberance of the packed auditorium. Well done to all of them and my wish, no doubt echoing many colleagues and friends of the school would be to see even more students awarded for their determination and great attitude to their learning.
Everybody, I think, probably likes to be praised, perhaps not always publicly but most of you would probably associate praise with feeling good about yourselves. It might make you happy and more valued and depending on who gave the praise, a few words may mean the world to you.
I haven’t embarrassed any student by singling an individual out in the above Progress Stars but I bet that when names appear on the bulletin, on a post-card home or on the school corridors, the student or class receiving them and the parents, who receive them, feel a positive glow. How often, in the words of a hymn I remember, are people “swift to chide and slow to bless” and how many times is Thumper flashed on the screen in school assemblies to remind us that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”
Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity. Samuel Johnson
The problem is that just by saying something nice doesn’t actually help our students with their learning. The Progress Stars add some feedback about what it is specifically that made the learning positive and in Hattie and Yate’s recent book, ‘Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn’ they point out that no research has ever proved that just receiving praise itself can assist a student to learn or to increase their knowledge and understanding. It might help to make you want to stick with something a bit longer or make you happier but it doesn’t make you learn. Teachers [and parents] often go way over top with praise and I’ve observed praise for getting pens out or a simple question requiring little thought met with absolute rapture. The two authors point out “if we want to produce people who lack persistence and self –control, who are accustomed to immediate gratification as their default position, then rewarding them on every single opportunity is one known techniques.” Students want honest feedback not just praise which is informing the students what the teacher likes but not supporting their learning needs.
Carol Dweck in her studies found out that if children are constantly praised for being clever and intelligent, they lack resilience later and give up more easily. [They can’t stand the idea of failing] I mentioned Dweck’s work in an earlier blog and her notion of developing a growth mind-set has been pushed across our school. http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=69
The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. Norman Vincent Peale
Hattie and Yates tell us that what the students really need is feedback that provides them with information from their teacher or peers as to how to achieve their goals’ and where to move to next. How can they close the learning gap between where they are now and where they need to be? The gap has to bridgeable and not too a huge chasm. A criticism of many schools from Ofsted is that they don’t give specific feedback to the students when they mark their books that would help them understand how to ‘close the learning gap’ and that they then don’t include the student in a dialogue about their own learning. I’ve written about feedback and dialogue before but you may be interested to see what we look for when the senior staff and line-managers monitor your child’s books. Our monitoring occurs twice a year and books are also scrutinised when we observe lessons and when we interview students to chat about their learning. The teachers submit books/folders from a range of students and self-assess their marking/feedback on the sheet below before handing it to their line-manager who completes a separate feedback form before passing it on to me and Miss Heaton. Feedback teacher to teacher has to be very specific too to close any gaps in professional performance and the senior staff that see all of the marking in the school are able to point colleagues to areas of great practice to share from. When we introduced this format last year, we used our Learning Walks to interview students with their books to find out their perceptions of marking and which bits they found the most useful. Their answers went back to individual teachers, subject leaders and all of the students and staff, so that we could have a clearer picture of the system in action and learn from what our students were telling us. They are pretty good judges!
Book Monitoring Autumn 2013 Name Department
There is a slight change in format to fit in with some of our key initiatives so we can measure the impact of them and set priorities for next year. Please select a cross section of books from different abilities and cohorts and please highlight on your sheet, specific areas in the books where your line-manager should look to be guided towards finding good evidence to support your self-evaluation.
|Dialogue devpt||Self/peer assessment||Questions posed||Literacy/numeracy||New ideas|
|Specific feedback the students can understand||Self/peer assessment related to a specific criteria||Questions are set by the teacher as part of the assessment process and the students answer them||Literacy /numeracy checked. Literacy marking scheme used-monthly literacy advice followed||Any ideas trialled from learning hubs, peer observations, courses|
|Evidence that the students have checked the feedback||Self/peer assessment with an explanation/example||The questions are specifically aimed at levels/grades/skills/misconceptions||Students respond to literacy/numeracy advice||Impact of your innovations|
|Evidence that the students have successfully responded to the feedback||The self/peer assessor checks that their feedback has been successfully met||Questions are raised by self or peers and answered||Any impact noted?||How will you develop them further?|
|The process is verified||Questions are written into schemes of learning||Ideas you have shared. Any feedback?|
You can see that we encourage the teachers to give subject specific feedback that will help our students to improve their learning. They then need time to read and reflect on the advice and to incorporate it into their next pieces of learning. [If appropriate] The teacher must then check that their advice has been successfully met. The same process occurs when the students assess each other’s learning and they then have to ask another student to verify that their assessment and feedback is correct. Students may be inaccurate and we provide clear guidelines to help them. I have explained previously that the self and peer assessment skills that we teach are crucial in developing learners who can evaluate their learning strengths and weaknesses and who begin to see that receiving critical advice is a positive aspect of being a great learner.
http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?m=201305 We don’t allow them to be insensitive of course! Feedback becomes powerful, Hattie and Yates say when success criteria is shared with the learner and so that they know exactly what they have to do to be successful and when it challenges them at or just above their current level of learning. They have to push themselves hard to succeed. [The whole process of peer feedback done well is challenging!]
We borrowed the FISH idea from Lisa Jane Ashes adapted it and then added subject specific scaffolds to help our students give specific and informative feedback advice that will really help the learner to ‘close the gap’. We would hope that as the students develop their own feedback skills, then the support scaffolds could lessen in their detail. What would lead to disaster is just saying to them-“comment on student A’s work” or “say 2 things you like about student A’s work and 1 thing they can improve on” without at first, offering a criteria to work with. These are taught skills-they have to be-one piece of research suggested that 80% of peer assessors get it wrong-so they need our help to get it right!
The quality of feedback given may have more impact on student achievement than any other factor [Hattie ‘Visible Learning’] so it is imperative that we get it right as teachers and if we use peer assessors, they need to be supported to get it right too. The development of peer assessment is interesting but of course the majority of the feedback given comes from the teachers and it may be oral or written.
Dialogue is evidenced in books and students are confident in discussing their learning.
Students answer differentiated questions left by staff to tackle misconceptions./subject specific feedback-questions may develop misconceptions or extend the students to cover areas not possible in lesson time/or aim the students towards their target grades and beyond
Students take on board targets and try & tackle them in time provided by teachers.
Students peer assess and leave specific subject feedback with constructive advice with an example to secure progress. As above FISH and scaffolds to support-peer assessors given time to check their feedback has been met
Students discuss marks awarded to establish moderation at GCSE. Students may prepare exam marks schemes and peer assess based on them [inset day] or learn to tackle the hardest questions they may face in an exam by constructing questions on a ‘hard’ topic with a suitable mark scheme.
Students are not scared of getting their book marked; they enjoy improving and making further progress. The language of learning is observed and celebrated!
|Assessment is outstanding because it focuses relentlessly on the quality and depth of pupils understanding. Levels and grades are considered thoughtfully over extended periods of time across a wide range of activities. Audio and video recordings are used extensively to appraise pupils work, identify accurately how their musical/dramatic responses could develop further and consistently realise these improvements.||High level questions are pre planned and push students to access the deeper meaning of drama/music subject matter.Specific answers are expected in order to supply evidence that supports understanding. Peer assessment is used to further develop student answers.Recordings are taken for moderation purposes and referred back to at later dates when assessment is documented.Targets are set and a dialogue between teacher and pupil is evident. Targets from previous topics are checked and achievement is verified by both teachers and pupils. Clear criteria provided for both self/peer assessment and for peer assessors/verifiers the opportunity to discuss with the original student and compromise if necessary-peer assessor provided with the chance to check their advice/feedback has been met|
The two extracts above are from the history and music department’s agreed ‘great learning and teaching’ documents produced on our September inset when all of our teachers, for some of the time, produced a document outlining what they thought that great learning and teaching should look like in their lessons. This then formed the criteria for any lesson observations and an agreed approach to day in day out learning and teaching. http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=69 Different subjects have different priorities and we allow them to try out their own innovations and trials re marking and feedback. Some subjects have more lessons than others, so may mark more frequently, some have far more books to mark e.g. RE so a marking every book approach may need re-thinking, some having less lesson time may use specific questions in their feedback to cover gaps in knowledge and skills and so on. However, whatever the method used the minimum marking/feedback requirement for every teacher in the school to ensure that feedback is effective [and this follows the guidelines in the excellent Robert Powell, ‘Feedback and Marking’ book], these conditions must be met;
- Students need to recognise the need for it.
- They need to receive it in a way that is meaningful in their present state of understanding.
- The need time to make sense of it and then act upon it
We would insist that the ‘acting on it’ was monitored and that there was a ‘dialogue’ between the teacher and the student to support the process. If the feedback is a written part of marking books, again Powell suggestions are as good as any;
- Focused task related phrases and not vague generalisations.
- Feedback must relate to the success criteria that are accessible and clearly understood by the students.
- Feedback mustn’t overwhelm the students. It must be ’focused, specific and clear.’ Too much will confuse and demoralize.
- Feedback should be spearet5d from the praise-more discussion on this needed!
- Must be an expectation that the written ‘next steps’ must be put into action by the student.
What constitutes good written feedback began to be discussed using external suggestions and then quickly by sharing our own examples of good practice [as is happening here]
I’ll share more of our ideas at the end of the document and our own teachers will borrows ideas from their colleagues and if other schools are reading this, they are free to share our ideas too. Ofsted liked our marking and I have shared lots of photocopied examples and previous book monitoring forms with other schools. Every school will have teachers who mark fantastically well and feedback in inventive and engaging ways and am sure they will look at our ideas and think theirs may be better! Send them here then and share back! Seriously, the key to great marking and feedback which benefits every student in the school is the rigour of the monitoring and sharing of agreed and modelled practice. All teachers, not just a few dedicated ones need to mark and feedback well-it really does and will make a huge difference to their learning. I’m really sold on Zoe Elder’s book, ‘Full on Learning’ approach and in her feedback section she says,” to ignore feedback is to overlook the most integral part of the learning process and miss out on the opportunity to draw out the capacity to enquire in every learner. We can pour all our energy into designing fantastic, compelling learning opportunities, we can stand back, let the learning happen and be delighted at the achievements of our learners, but unless we take deliberate steps to actively seek out how well the learning is ‘sticking’ in the minds of our learners, we will never really know how effective our strategies are”
If we could develop learners and teachers along the ‘Full on Learning’ lines of;
|Learners who||Teaching that|
|Deliberately practice their expertise within and beyond school.||Offers a varied diet that develops specific skills in different contexts, with different team members at different times.|
|Believe that they get better through hard work, not luck. Set their own targets and believe that they can always improve.||Praises effort within a task, rather than the individual attainment of the leaner, ‘Clever is what clever does’|
|Use focused feedback from teachers and peers to develop their own expertise.|
Encourages quality learning conversations, developing a reflective-centric classroom focused on learning.
Even I might relax, enjoy Christmas and look forward to 2014!
Interesting external ideas;
The art and design technology faculty ideas to support teacher feedback and student response [and checking] help the students to structure their peer assessment and learning thoughts in lessons and at the end of a module of learning. How we measure learning is very much an ongoing discussion- schools, for obvious reasons, are often driven by what Ofsted seems to demand and they had a spell of wanting to see progress in their 20 minute visits [they may deny this!] and we would probably rather talk in terms of developing both knowledge and skills in short bursts and reflecting upon where we are up to in our learning, where we have come from and where we want to get to [and how can the teacher can help and how the student can help themselves]and measuring learning at regular intervals over a period of time. It would be daft to talk in terms of great learning progress after 1 lesson or part of it, if they had then forgotten what they had been learning by the time the next lesson came round –and the next, and the next and so on.
Lots of teachers will use stickers to help them mark lots of books, especially when it is a common theme that they are marking with common misconceptions. Provided that they aren’t used all of the time and that they aren’t on every page so that the students don’t get the time to reflect on each feedback point and are overwhelmed by them-they can work well and the students always say that they like them and find them useful.
Some examples from geography equipping the students with friendly criteria they can base both their own piece of learning and their self or peer assessment on. The stickers can be discussed before use in terms of what does ‘detailed’ actually mean and look like and what could ’further responses include’
History peer assessment with some specific advice and feed-forward-we would expect the peer assessor to have the chance to check that their advice has been met and the work should be verified by another peer assessor. I’ve explained why peer assessment is a great way to help learning ‘stick’ but can often be inaccurate.[ Easy to understand criteria and verification help] A great peer assessor would be expected to write an example of a ‘balanced judgement’ to model what was needed. Below you can see the student responding to questions set by Miss to clarify points not explained clearly on the previous page.
Give me examples-no generalisations!
Many feedback comments are made by the teacher as they either work with individuals or sprint around the room to support the learning-the stamper just gives the student the chance to jot the thoughts down and each subject has stampers of varying designs to help them.
The English faculty tend to use their national assessment grids with their students [on the left]-the students do understand them! Next to the criteria are the peer-assessment guidelines covering specific peer feedback and verification. Below is an example of the peer assessment in action!
Interestingly you can see here a new development from English [already used in ICT and business studies and trialled in history] of responding to student’s home –learning via a drop box messaging system on the VLE.
We have lots of stickers and stampers to encourage the students to respond to their feedback and to peer-assess well –well worth the money and time creating them! Couple of the more sane ones below!
Two of our music and drama teachers have been working together on the NTEN project to develop key stage 3 peer assessment strategies. When peer assessment was first used the teacher would ask something like ‘what did you like about the play/music? What could be improved?’ The students struggled to articulate their view, lacking the specific vocabulary and never being sure which bit of the performance to focus on. Above are their latest ideas-a drama one using the acronym FBSV and lots of words that they can use in their specific feedback. Each group will concentrate on one aspect of the performance at a time. Similarly the music prompt will help the students to feedback on musical performances using the correct terminology and musical literacy to support their specific comments.
PE colleagues adapted a similar PAR one to the one art and design use and you can see the spaces for the teacher to write their comments and ones for the students to respond. The peer assessment version demands the same skills as the teacher one. We may need to change the word ‘praise’ for ‘feedback’ to make FAR!
Our maths colleagues have been trying out different stickers, changing slightly from before, as they develop peer assessment and verification processes. Their STAR stickers encourage the incorporation of real life examples into the feedback-an issue big in the maths Ofsted world and maths teaching generally. The students have clear guidelines for each G.C.S.E. criteria so that they can self and peer assess as accurately as possible before verifying.
I explained our NTEN lesson study early day’s work http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=134 http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=129 a few weeks ago and showed how the art teachers were using a marginal gains wheel -adapted from http://www.huntingenglish.com/2012/09/25/using-marginal-gains-for-self-assessment-with-useful-resources/ http://www.huntingenglish.com/2012/10/28/new-teaching-ideas-making-the-marginal-gains/ This allowed the students to self-assess their own art-work and gave clear guidelines what to look for. The feedback from this self-marking obviously tells the student that they need to work on the red areas to make maximum improvements to the overall quality of, in this case, their art folder layout. This approach doesn’t overwhelm and takes key learning bits at a time to build up an overall higher quality end product. Below is something I’m playing with and thinking about for year 11 assembly to help the students to self-assess their own revision skills and to then feedback to let the teachers know the areas of revision that may need most attention and focus. Again the mind-set of the students must be to look at their weaknesses first and to address them-this is what great learners do and feedback whether it is from yourself, a peer or a teacher- might not be exactly what you wanted to hear-get over it, take it and learn from it!
As it is Xmas, I’ll end appropriately with RE! They have the biggest load of individual marking and have the least lessons in KS4 to get their students great exam grades. They have altered their marking radically and sensibly place a huge emphasis on different tactics and self/peer assessment to help them with their huge load. A couple of ideas below;
They came up with their ‘bubble and speak’ method of teacher, self and peer assessment which asks the marker for their specific feedback advice, lets them respond with some dialogue and then allows verification of the feedback being met. Both teacher and student use the same principle and this has been praised by the students in their Learning Walk feedback and by Jennie and Anne-“a life-saver!” -who find that it makes marking a tad easier and enables all concerned to ‘cut to the chase’ and focus on appropriate individual learning needs. It does rely on students ‘buying’ in to the relevance of the system which is exactly what great marking and feedback at Melos Cop should do. The old saying of ‘to damn with faint praise’ was sometimes the case when I was at school-‘to damn with faint feedback’ is perhaps a modern version which just isn’t acceptable considering the importance of feedback to learning and the wealth of ideas to support both teachers and students get it right.
The original blog was written just before Xmas and since then there have been some interesting developments within school-DIRT [FLIRT] has continued to develop and there are some ideas here in Magic Moments 2; http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=615 at the beginning of the shared ideas and student views on feedback that helps their learning here; http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=535
Individual descriptions and sharing of feedback/marking ideas can be seen in the following blogs; MFL peer critique in the second half of this blog-http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=281
Using Edmodo in ICT and PE assessment-http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=438
Humanities peer verification and critique-http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=398
English and maths ideas-http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=349
MFL and performing arts marking and feedback-http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=542
Science DIRT, peer critique and more!-http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=500
Externally there have been some great examples and discussions that we have been sharing as ‘learning Thoughts’ with our staff-noticeably David Didau’s excellent series http://t.co/qev9Nyfw8i and Dylan William response http://.co/ftBCWpj2dv
Hayley Thompson’s lovely collection of marking ideas http://t.co/D2gQZFvU1D
Andy Tharby’s smarter way to mark-http://reflectingenglish.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/what-if-we-didnt-mark-any-books/ supported by his Guardian article-http://t.co/bIVxikTr9B and gallery critique-http://reflectingenglish.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/adventures-with-gallery-critique/
7 things to remember about feedback-http://t.co/XOEvSa8fGQ
Blending content with assessment-Tom Sherrington-http://headguruteacher.com/2014/04/09/pedagogy-postcard-12-blending-content-with-assessment/
DIRT-examples from everywhere-http://t.co/d8C7blT2Bh
Fast feedback from the North East-http://belmontteach.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/fast-feedback-4/comment-page-1/#comment-166
RAG/DIRT all the way from Wales! –http://t.co/5OHxBnV929
Just a few examples to consider! Enjoy!