This is a blog about marking and a common-sense approach to teacher-workload. In this read, you will find a CPD training resource ready-to-go for you and your own staff.
Power from the Floor is all about teachers talking and having the opportunity to contribute from the floor on whole-school policy which impacts on their own practice in the classroom.
This week, we had a staff training session focused on marking over time. In this blog you will read a walk-through document and follow the sequence of training thought and events; and you will also find the full PowerPoint resource that you can download for yourself. When planning this training activity for staff I set about coordinating the sharing and comparing the theme based on a five point plan shown below:
In my second follow-up blog, I offer a book-look resource which aims to develop the teacher and gather a picture of diagnostic marking over time across the entire school.
A 5-Point Plan:
In full, our approach for marking is:
- To develop high quality assessment.
- To develop diagnostic feedback across all subjects.
- To approach marking from a realistic, workload perspective.
- To keep in mind a common-sense approach.
- To ensure we are getting it right for students and teachers from the outset.
Our plan was to share and compare throughout the 1.5 hour session.
Prior to the event, we asked staff to arrive with an example of marking from the classroom and an example of homework. In our lovely new building, we divided teaching staff into various groups so that they could be exposed to a wide range of marking strategies and approaches in a wide range of subjects. We gave staff the opportunity to share and compare; to identify what worked well to equip students to make progress over time. We encouraged teachers to keep in the back of their mind, what works and what is unnecessary bureaucracy.
We started with the following post-it note questions; what practice supports students making progress:
High Quality Vision:
To develop the quality of summative/formative assessment, we want target-setting to be consistently diagnostic (across all subjects) to help students improve their work. To develop teaching and learning to ensure that, over time, all teaching is typically good or outstanding; ensuring that teachers know how well students are doing through using assessment accurately. To identify students’ progress and targets, and marking their work diagnostically to help improve classwork.
The session started with 4 questions posed before showing Austin’s Butterfly by Ron Berger:
- How could you apply this technique in your subject?
- How could you apply this technique in your lesson?
- If any, what are the downsides?
- How could re-drafting work with our students?
Click the image to watch the 6-minute footage. If you have not seen this, it will transform your opinion of marking and feedback!
For the following 15 minutes, we asked staff to share and compare; asking staff to leave their own marking on the tables and rotate around the room.
Following on from this, we then introduced two strategies that all teachers could implement into the classroom the very next day. As part of our weekly CPD, when staff attend sessions, we handout a resource pre-purchased by CPD budget for teachers to use in the classroom. I can blog about this another time in terms of the resources we provide, but this week we gave teaching staff a yellow highlighter pen to help them start with the following idea.
Thanks to a great idea from George Spencer Academy, we have introduced the Yellow Box as an idea to start across the school. This has not been made compulsory; rather a trial. You can download the GSA resource here.
I then introduced our 2nd takeaway classroom strategy, Not Yet which I have previously blogged about The Power of Not Yet and how I have been using this in my classroom. A simple verbal and possibly written strategy for student feedback which can change a child’s progress in the classroom. It works! I showed the first three minutes of Carol Black speaking at TEDTalk, Norrköping in Sweden. Within five minutes we had encouraged staff to consider using the two techniques the next day. Simple and practical ideas for the classroom.
followed by the first 3 minutes of this video which shows Dweck introducing the concept. Click the image to play.
I then discussed workload and a common-sense approach to marking and gave the following examples to staff. I shared key documents that we have been working on, revising our current policies; speaking with middle leaders at our academic and pastoral board meetings. I also shared a typical teaching work-flow of someone who works in our school. This member of staff teachers 24 periods of 50 minute lessons per week. Within these 24 period-timetable, there are 19 different classes.
The full-time classroom teacher teaches:
I shared some challenging questions for senior leaders and stated that a common-sense approach is needed. I shared our vision to develop diagnostic feedback across all subjects, as well as our own modified framework for monitoring and evaluating the quality of marking across the school. I emphasised very specifically to staff, that if we are to move towards a no-grading climate, then we must have a mechanism in place for developing the teacher and a mechanism for helping to develop the teacher in all-things-teaching. This includes marking.
This cannot be done in a grading culture where leaders are looking at teacher books; creating a ‘got-cha culture’; trying to catch staff out doing the wrong things at the wrong times. This does not work. This does not motivate teachers and it certainly does not help students make progress. We are adopting a common-sense approach to marking over time versus a not yet criteria.
We are also keeping the bigger picture of progress over time in mind, rather than looking at marking as an isolated component of progress. The following image helps put this into perspective throughout an academic year (rather than a one-off performance):
Getting it right:
We are reviewing our policies. We want to get it right. We want to reduce workload and dispel marking myths, whilst improving student progress. We know there is no silver bullet for marking and feedback, but we do know that we have to get it right and we do know, that marking and feedback looks very different in all subjects, key stages and in lessons. It is important that we recognise this and keep it in mind. To conclude, I briefly touched upon our current marking policy which we are revising again with the 5-point plan in mind to reduce workload and increase impact. This has been re-published for staff for comment, before we publish a revised version next term.
We provided staff with these initial suggestions to encourage staff towards a culture of ‘what is expected practice’, but not compulsory practice as a teacher, as well as guidelines for what we think is ‘not expected practice.’
I provided staff with a blank template at the end of the session. I asked each table to suggest one expected and not expected idea that could feed into a whole staff document to share. I will share this during half-term (February 2015). Power from the Floor!
Below you can download the full presentation; which also includes a session on homework and marking. If you would like to download it, all I ask in return is that you click this link right here, before clicking the image below to download.
I hope you find this useful and please do send any feedback so that I can share best practice with staff around my school. If you do use this, then please let me know how you get on. I will report back next term, once we have had the opportunity to get started.
In my next blogpost, I will share how we will go about monitoring the overall quality of diagnostic marking across departments.