In this blog, I aim to show how a department can evolve throughout the academic year; given our recent focus on departmental and whole-school, book-monitoring.
The evidence is clear … Teachers must mark books.
Back in December 2013, I wrote about #BookLooks and Mantras: The Ugly Truth; regarding what we have managed to achieve in the Autumn term (this academic year) and what impact this was having, on raising standards of teaching and learning. Two terms later, I have questioned how we have moved on with teaching and learning. Particularly given the recent @OfstedNews headlines regarding observations, and in light of the An edu-bloggers mandate to @OfstedNews!
The Ugly Truth?
My Principal and I, duly titled this: ‘The Ugly Truth’ back in December. Our point of view, was that the half-termly process of reporting on standards, would highlight (the real picture of) day-to-day evidence; versus the abnormal appraisal process, which showcases teachers at their best (or worst) without taking into account the big picture; ‘progress over time’. Or, put simply, The Ugly Truth.
If we have a fairer system for judging teachers based on student progress, and the evidence provided offers an improved system for supporting teachers, other than a one-off lesson observation … Then we are moving forward in the right direction. I have blogged about how we are addressing Progress Over Time, and will shortly be updating our staff, on our whole-school processes. I will share this with you all soon.
Progress over time:
I tweeted this photo last week, from a document I hope to publish to all our staff next term. What we are trying to do, is capture all the various sources – without making any assumption on percentages or weighting; in order to make reliable and accurate judgements. More importantly, a fairer assessment on the quality of teaching and learning of individual teachers; students; learner-groups and classrooms.
So, the evidence? If student books will be used to gather evidence of progress over time; oddly-enough, teachers will mark their books. The evidence below suggests this! Students will receive marked work – more frequently – and will also receive feedback. I cannot guarantee the quality at the moment; as I have not looked in every teacher’s set of books, but middle and senior leaders have, and given this improvement in marking, we can now tailor our focus on looking for evidence of quality marking.
There are a multitude of factors to be asked here; as well as a need for context; further conversatuions with staff and of course, training opportunites. We know our staff are feeling #ThePinch, so we keep this in mind too.
This evidence of quality will vary in quality and frequency, from faculty to faculty; teacher to teacher; and from talking to students, our sourcing of evidence from individuals will aim to provide evidence of ‘acting on feedback’ and ‘re-drafting’ work.
Here is a reminder of the simple whole-school document we are using. Remember, this is school-specific, so I am not advocating this as a model for everyone to use.
Here is a snapshot of one faculty. The columns at the top of each database are taken from the template above.
- Y = Yes
- N = No
- B = But
You can see for yourself, that the range of books sampled vary significantly. Can I stress here, that NO Oftsed grading is used. We have used our own criteria based on our own school priorities. Initially, we emphasised the importance on having ‘books marked’ as the key source of evidence we wanted to find.
In this case, this led to conversations with two members of staff. “Mark your books!”
Can I just state, I am included in this list above, as one of the teachers ‘not marked’. How embarrassing?! Of course, regardless of the fact that I am teaching a new subject, I hold my hands up and have used this information personally as a teacher; but also, to apply this process and put it into context as a senior leader; how do we make assessments of all classes observed?
Context is needed.
Do observers choose students at random? Are students selected according to ability? Is there a medium-sample-range of books used?
For example, assessment procedures vary form subject-to-subject; key-stage to key-stage. If work is completed on a PC, or as part of a controlled assessment, does that allow you to mark student work in the same manner as a simple exercise book with typical classwork evident? Can this be observed in the same way?
How can teachers adapt to suit this monitoring process? Is there a danger, that this become another stick to beat teachers with? Or does this become another box-ticking exercise for all; not just the observer, to just meet this monitoring process? I do have these fears and I am determined to modify this process so that we keep to our overall aim: to improve the quality of teaching and learning (marking).
These are all important questions to ask.
Given the information above, once shared with middle leaders and teachers, small improvements were made across the faculty. The whole-school focus shifted, from ‘just marking books’, to providing evidence of student feedback. The majority of the faculty had improved its evidence.
And even better …
We aim to get straight to the point regarding our school priorities.
- Provide clear evidence of re-drafting work; based on teacher and student feedback.
- Evidence of challenging gifted and talented students.
I saw this photo tweeted by @HarrisGreenwich. I have observed this in many visits to other schools and the photo ‘speaks a thousand words’. Quality; transparency; CPD; and a culture of sharing best practice. I dream of this image happening in my own school. It would certainly be a great day for moving us all forward; even me!
- The 5 Minute Marking Plan
- I want to be a #SmartAss
BookLooks and Mantras: The ugly truth
- Search over 37+ blogposts on ‘Marking’.