30 second marking?

Interestingly of our 3 most visited blog posts, 2 are our big sharing of marking ideas that include our own examples and highlight great ideas from elsewhere that we like and would pretend are our own, if nobody was reading our blogs! Two more external additions spotted over the last couple of weeks are well worth finding time to check out.

Alex Quigley @HuntingEnglish  considers the value of feedback and much more and raises issues that every teacher thinks about privately and in discussions re marking. He also includes some great feedback tactics, some of which we use and a couple of ones which may be new.

‘Have We Got Feedback Backwards?’ http://www.huntingenglish.com/2014/09/27/feedback-feed-forward/ …

Tom Sherrington @headguruteacherhttp://headguruteacher.com/2014/09/26/improving-the-basics-inspired-by-austin/ shares his DIRT activity based on Austin’s Butterfly to demonstrate how 1 student noticeably improved his learning. There are more and more teachers sharing examples and photos of their marking externally, as we do, rather than just talking about it-this really helps and is great CPD for our profession.

My 3rd external post comes from Dan Brinton and is his most popular post and the one that first highlighted the two schools to each other’s presence as I used it back in November of 2013 in our blog. ‘Fast Feedback’ has 9 great ideas that any teacher can use tomorrow! Dan has sent his post around again recently-so here it is again if you missed it the first time.


Meols Cop Science Fast Marking/Feedback

The main part of our blog this week is the opportunity to share the marking/feedback strategies that our science faculty are currently trialling. Carmel explained their ideas with great passion, so I hope that I do them justice and I will use their examples from very current work to model for you. Their main aim is to mark their books before the next lesson/next day in a manner that is useful to the students, helps them check key concepts have been understood, check short term learning progress/fill knowledge gaps and be fit and healthy enough to be on top form themselves in lessons, and not exhausted by too heavy a load of marking and planning.

In KS4 they have bought all of the students revision guides-no notes are made in the books that are marked-notes can be made in the purchased guides or some students have requested a small note book which they have been given. These books are not marked. The books which the teacher marks has the concepts in them/questions and these are used in DIRT-dedicated improvement and reflection time.

The process involves;

  • Self-assessed/peer assessed according to shared criteria
  • Some is based on key words/science literacy
  • The task is improved based on the self/peer advice
  • The teacher adds their comments AFTER the work has been improved
  • Questions are usually added to focus on misconceptions/gaps
  • DIRT next lesson is used to respond to the feedback/questions and the cycle continues
  • Different coloured pens show who is writing-red-students self-assessment, blue-student’s DIRT, green-teacher, blue-student response, sticker/stamper-feedback achieved

The colours help the speed at which the teacher can ascertain who has said what and what needs responding to and crucially, both Carmel and Hollie ask the students to leave the book open on the page that needs commenting on open-they are either left on the tables like that or collected in open to save vital time, opening and finding the place where the learning is.


This extracts are from Carmel’s year 10 lower ability students re-drafting after advice from the teacher and then receiving peer advice and a peer question. Carmel stressed the point to me that although this style of peer/self-assessment is often seen as achievable with high sets; they have trialled it across the board and these are examples of foundation G.C.S.E. classes and it is making the science team consider moving them to the higher tier.

02 03

Carmel explained that her aim is to spend 30 seconds adding a pertinent comment/question as part of this process for each student which allows her to have the books ready for the next lesson. More in-depth marking/time consuming marking occurs when assessments are undertaken. She feels that the inclusion of the students in the process is improving their learning and allowing marking to be manageable and have a measureable impact on learning.

Barriers so far have been;

  • If the pen colours go wrong! Most of the team issue packs of pens at the start of the lesson with the right colours in.
  • If the students don’t respond-couple have been brought back at break and haven’t erred again.
  • Keeping up the discipline for making yourself stick to the regime-much easier with all the faculty trialling and supporting.

Carmel asked if I knew of other examples [which raised issues about speedy marking] and I recalled Sharon Porter’s blog where she explains her use of a mark guide at the end of each lesson. Well worth a read. I’m sure there may be others and when I share this on twitter we may get some responses to share ideas.



Hannah has been introducing her year 8 groups to ‘fast feedback’ incorporating self and peer critique. This was the task;


DIRT allowed the students to prepare the ‘excellent’ work ready for Miss to read and comment on by encouraging re-drafting until all of the information needed was there-some of the comments are quite basic but our students miss out ‘basic’ information regularly and lose crucial exam marks. The exercise reinforces the rigour that is needed to answer using as much detailed subject knowledge as we want them to and allows Hannah to focus on the marginal gains type of comment and feedback that ‘excellent’ work requires. Borrowed from Chris Moyse, we like;


Joe’s year 10 current books show peer feedback in red, blue for student responses, green for teacher comments and mention RAG-the students choosing their current level of understanding-red, amber, green. Again the students are working hard to produce the excellent finished piece and both self, peers and Joe are prompting and questioning to get there. The acronym PEER, is different than the PEE often used and represents

P praise for what was good about the learning

E even better if

E example to support the EBI

R response to the suggested EBI-can’t be yes, no I agree, thank you etc.!

13 14

The dialogue between the peer assessor and the student before their teacher comments on the learning looks to be interesting! Not quite a ding dong but a good exchange of advice and response.


Rachael’s cheesy dialogue followed by pleasing self-reflection in DIRT. Joe and Rachael share their year 8 class and Joe also uses the acronym DIRT differently to support self-critique. In the example below it stands for;

D what do you feel you have DONE well?

I what do you feel was INTERESTING about your learning?

R what are your key REFLECTIONS on today’s learning?

T what would you TARGET for improvement?

I quite like this!


The scientists seem to be obsessed with food! Hannah moved from cheese to bacon with this dialogue based on PEER.

17 18 19 20 21

If the marking/feedback is improving the learning, as you can see in Phil’s example and the students are using DIRT –great!

Science perspective-why marking had to change

As with all teachers, the pressure of the need to deliver results has become immense and the science faculties response had [and has] been to up their assessing and testing from year 7 onwards to a level that is far beyond what happened previously. This was their decision and not an ultimatum from SLT! I’m not use to testing as thoroughly and as often, but am prepared to let colleagues run with their ideas and to feedback to us on the impact of their ideas. The focus of the tests constantly changes as they monitor and adapt to weaknesses in performance as they appear. The heavy load of marking that the testing brought did impact on day to day marking and when book monitoring time came round, allied with observations, concern was flagged up and Carmel and myself had a couple of long conversations where we discussed different strategies to enable the scientists to keep their heads above water in marking terms whilst still providing a quality marking/feedback outside of the test situation for students in all years. There was a worry, as there always is, when I mention using DIRT in lessons allied with self/peer critique that valuable learning time could be lost [i.e. coverage of the knowledge needed in the syllabus/scheme of learning] I obviously believe that great marking and the time found for the students to reflect in lessons enhances and helps to retain/improve subject learning/knowledge not detract from it-it’s a good discussion though! We looked at internal and external best practice-you can see a great bookmark devised by Daria Kohls below, which covers some of the external ideas discussed.


There are lots of similar ‘fast feedback’ ideas and whichever suits best is fine by me, provided that it fits our whole school structure as explained in previous blogs [at the end of this blog] I’m not sure who had the original ideas for all of these but Kev Lister and Damian Benney are great exponents of RAG and I first saw FAIL/SAIL on Belmont School’s blog. Do read their ideas and follow them if you get the chance. Daria borrowed her medal and a mission from a blonde scouser called Wendy-think I vaguely recollect who she is!!

It’s early days for our scientists with their trial but they have been pleased with the impact of their marking so far for all involved and from My Perspective as a senior leader;

  • I’m delighted that that the faculty have taken the initiative themselves to improve what they saw as a weak learning and teaching area
  • I’m equally delighted that they are working together and supporting each other by sharing ideas constantly and being honest and open with each other. Sometimes books and marking remain hidden from other colleagues [and other schools!]
  • This comment perhaps sums up my belief and what we are trying to achieve at MCHS

Damian Benney‏@Benneypenyrheol

II think the model of collating the “bright spots” of marking to share best practice is exceptionally good!

  • I like the fact that they are collating their evidence via Hannah and that they have followed the path of suggesting solutions, rather than just complaining about marking!
  • I like the really practical idea of leaving the pages open for speed of access-I hadn’t thought of this before and the ease with which colours can help the marker cut straight to the chase.
  • It is for each faculty to decide which type of marking is best for them and most appropriate for their students and teachers. I emphasised in this blog http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=967 and will stress again that marking preferences and styles are not uniform. Even within the same subject and same teacher it would make sense for different procedures to be followed with different abilities and classes, should you wish to. I was going to include an example of my marking with the least able students in school but as this post has grown and grown, I’ll share next week! Provided that the marking and feedback fit within my suggested structure-fine, go for it, try new ideas and let me know from your impact data/professional experience-does it support and improve learning!
  • If it sounds Orwellian that I have an imposed structure-it isn’t, it’s this and I think it’s eminently sensible and manageable;

Marking and feedback

We use a range of marking strategies in school depending on the subject, age and ability of the students.  However, there are some key basic principles that underpin our approach, to which staff and students should adhere:

  • Marking and feedback must be prompt.  The books must be taken in for marking and returned with feedback at agreed regular intervals dependent on the amount of curriculum time the subject has.
  • Subject specific feedback and feed forward advice and targets must be given to inform the students about what has successfully been achieved and how the learning can be further improved.
  • Questions addressed to the students may be used to support this strategy aimed at emphasising misconceptions and incomplete knowledge.
  • Whichever strategy is used, the students must:
  1. Be given time to read the advice and respond;
  2. Have future learning checked to see that the feedback has been  successfully employed;
  • Some teachers may use the term DIRT (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) to carry out these activities.
  • SPAG (Spelling Punctuation and Grammar) will also be checked for general and subject specific accuracy.
  • Our students will be involved in evaluating their own and each other’s learning.  Teachers will check the accuracy of student self and peer marking but the thought process involved strengthens student learning and helps them become more effective learners.  For them to be successful we might use the acronym FISH:
  • Friendly comments must be based on the learning, not the person!
  • Informative advice that suggests improvement, with supportive examples provided.
  • Specific feedback, based on the subject knowledge and skills that are need for mastery of the subject.
  • Honest feedback – don’t hide from what needs to be said.  Constructive criticism is useful and all mistakes can be learned from.
  • To enable student marking to be successful, the criteria for marking must be in student friendly language and have a clear structure, e.g. Bronze, Silver and Gold.
  • Peer assessment on its own is often inaccurate.  Another student should check the peer assessor’s comments and verify their accuracy before a compromise discussion with the owner of the work, the peer assessor and verifier. Further verification by using more peer assessors e.g. gallery critique further supports more accurate peer assessment.

For the students, there are a couple of simple messages;

23 24

Some staff may prefer to spend longer marking the books and provide longer feedback, some have different foci this term e.g. peer providers, some may prefer to stay with their current methods which are working for them, some may prefer to go through the work and spot SPaG errors and misconceptions themselves-it doesn’t matter to me provided that my colleagues continue to seek the best ways for their practice to improve and to seek suitable CPD appropriate to their professional needs.

As Damian said in his tweet about the sharing of marking practice intra and inter schools, looking for ‘bright spots’ or ‘magic moments’, as we call them, is essential for all of us not just enlightened leaders or teachers. If you spend your time looking at shared examples for the failure of the teacher to put a red pen through every spelling error or not using a ruler whilst failing to spot the improved dialogue between students leading to a re-drafted and improved piece of learning or a genuine attempt to make marking manageable and worthwhile-you’re missing the point and the moment of CPD gain has gone. [I’m not saying that SPaG and presentation aren’t important!]

Thank you to our science faculty for being brave enough to publicly share; I hope that colleagues inside MCHS and those from other schools find our ideas and thoughts useful.

3 thoughts on “30 second marking?

  1. Pingback: Assessment | PGCEPhysicalEducation

  2. Pingback: On your marks, get set-feedback! | Meols Cop High School

  3. Pingback: Summer Feedback Trilogy Part 2 Fast Feedback Trials and Observation Risks | Meols Cop High School

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *