How do school leaders reduce teacher workload whilst also improving teaching consistency?
Over the last five years, I’ve rarely come across any school leader who tells me they have bulletproof consistency.
The above question is something I have asked myself for almost 15 years. I believe some of our school policies, whilst on paper, desire to increase consistency, often fail to achieve it.
Last month, I unpicked 7 school feedback/marking policies that I have been working with to help move teaching and learning dialogue into the next decade. The particular focus is to move away from ‘marking’ and ‘feedback’, providing a little more nuance for teachers, parents and pupils.
How should schools move forward?
I am currently working with 9 forms of assessment (including marking) and 16 different influences that determine how successful your feedback (into other types: feed up and feedforward) to determine how successful your feedback is received.
After posting this video explanation, I received 5 new teaching and learning policies from schools. To protect the schools and in order to raise awareness and benefit all, I’ve screenshot certain parts of the policy and raised several questions to consider in your context.
Before we continue, it is worth taking some additional information into account. The images below represent one paragraph within a set of five documents, ranging between 3 to 16 pages each. The highlighted sections identify a small part where I have left a comment and responded to the school leader.
A short contextual statement is offered, then the image, then a series of questions from me to consider.
This school is based in the Middle East, UAE, and forms a group of 8 academies for pupils aged 2 – 18 years old.
- Why do most school policies focus on marking, rather than marking, feedback and non-verbal expectations?
- What are the benefits of marking work every two or three weeks? If I were a maths teacher, I’ll see my students four or five times a week compared to the art teacher who might just see their pupils once a week. The curriculum must drive assessment, not the other way around …
- What are the benefits of using highlighter pens when responding to pupils’ work?
- Should assessment only address mistakes?
- How often should a teacher record their assessments?
This independent school is based in the North of England. It is a small pupil referral unit for pupils (year 9 and above).
- How should verbal feedback be referenced in subjects where books are rarely used compared to others?
- Should verbal feedback be referenced?
- How could you make a conversation explicit?
- Who should understand the goal of verbal feedback: the teacher or pupil?
This is a large primary school in South West England.
- The former part of this document is a detailed vision statement, with snippets including this bullet point list. How could the school redesign the above bullet point list to match the statements and expectations?
- If this policy was redesigned to be short and punchy, for example, these 10 recommendations with a short sentence description following each, how could the school make these statements more explicit?
- Is there anything missing from the bullet points, or would you remove any?
This is a school based in South East England.
- We know students should be taught how to present their work, yet we also know it is a poor proxy for learning. Does your school’s policy include information on presentation? Is ‘presentation’ worth documenting?
- There are four coloured pens in the above policy: How could we make this more manageable for teachers and pupils?
- Should ‘presentation’ be part of a work sampling process?
This is a secondary school based in South West England. I have done a number of training sessions with the school, and they have also received Mark Plan Teach resources. Below is the opening statement of their one-page summary.
- The school has written or verbal feedback, but there is no reference to non-verbal. Should that be included?
- Should feedback be reserved if pupils do not meet minimum standards?
- How would “proportionate to curriculum time” function in your school policy?
- Live marking is encouraged. Is live feedback encouraged too?
- How is progress over time monitored?
- What is the progress over time monitored? How do you monitor verbal feedback?
I am a big fan of having a checklist of statements (see school C) and then defining these using frequent teacher training sessions with exemplar resources and ‘How to…’ guidance.
Of course, we need details and descriptions, but I think that should come from regular professional development conversations between colleagues, rather than lots of ‘vision-like’ statements outlined in a policy that nobody will read.
In a technological era, the ability to leave voice recordings, take photographs and leave comments in the e-margin of documents using an iPad is also worth exploring.
Remember, having written 2 million words in 3,000 blog posts on this site, the average reading time is 70 seconds – that tells you all you need to know about the working habits of teachers. Keep your policy concise!
If you would like access to some example policies, here are ~100 copies to use to establish your own template. One word of caution from me, don’t write it on your own, involve all the teaching staff in the process once you have the basic template in place …
If you would like me to offer some critique on your teaching and learning policy, please leave a comment below, email or a social media DM …