Marking will tear us apart...
"When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won't grow,
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads.
Then love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again."
Joy Division 1980.
There is nothing like a marking debate to increase the level of resentment in the staffroom, to cause friction and literally tear a staff moral apart. I am going to write this blog from a primary point of view with little reference to secondary marking and workload as I am not familiar with the practises.
When I was KS2 leader in a large school, which regularly gained satisfactory from Ofsted and eventually was placed in RI, I had the joyous task of revamping the marking policy. The system at the time was becoming unmanageable. We were supposed to mark ALL work with two stars and a wish. That also included maths, however we were sometimes able to get a away with a star and a wish here.
In a previous school we had used pink and green pens: 'tickled pink' for positives and 'green for growth' to highlight those sections that needed developing (or were incorrect). I didn't want this.
We needed to simplify our marking model.
The stars seemed to be a rewrite of the learning intention.
For example: LI: I can add two 3 digit numbers
Star: Well done you can add two 3 digit numbers.
Star: You have set them out correctly.
POINTLESS!! So we needed an alternative, some schools I saw, ticked the learning intention to show it had been met and we decided that we would have a code in the form of a triangle. 1 side of a triangle means that they have not met the learning intention. 2 sides of the triangle means that the children have partially met the learning intention and finally 3 sides of the triangle mean that the child has met the learning intention.
Next came the wish, we wanted to make a comment that would help the child improve, reflect or deepen their understanding so we asked staff to add a wish, often in maths it was a slightly more difficult question.
In literacy it may have been to add some adventurous vocabulary to an ineffectual sentence, to add an adverb to some of the verbs or to rewrite a passage which was muddled.
This works well. The children only write on the right hand pages in their books and the teacher writes their comments on the left. The children can then action those comments in the next lesson in the 1st 5 minutes before anything else happened. Ofsted saw this in June and seemed to like it. They could see the learning dialogue we were having with the children. As staff we realised that the attainment, effort and enthusiasm in the children was also increasing as they could see that their work was being valued.
As time has passed I have noticed that this process does not need to take place in every lesson. If a child gets all of their questions correct in maths, why do they need an additional one? Sometimes they do not need to edit their writing because they are developing it in the next lesson any way.
So I started leaving off wishes where they were not necessary. All was good! I'd found a balance! However, the wish, or wish work has become a stick for SLT to jab staff with. This was 'routine that was biting hard!' All work needs a wish because Ofsted were impressed with the teacher/student dialogue and visitors to the classroom could see the improvements made by the pupils.
Then recently we receive a memo from Ofsted which states that :
Ofsted does not expect to see extensive written dialogue between teachers and pupils.
Staff all over the place are celebrating, no more long marking sessions, we can tick their work and just use a really short code. Job done - marking workload is no more!
Hang on! Hold Up. It doesn't say Ofsted do not want to see extensive written dialogue, it says they do not expect it. It does not say 'Do not give your children written feedback' merely that they do not want an extensive dialogue.
So what does this mean for those of us on the chalkface?
I would suggest that there are occasions where this dialogue is a great tool. Where children have written an extensive piece of writing the teacher can act like an editor. With comments such as: 'How can this paragraph be improved?' 'Can you improve this sentence by using synonyms for said to show how x is feeling?' etc If a child can't read these comments then yes it is pointless, however in UKS2 and for higher ability children further down the school it can still be a very valuable excercise.
We need to be professionals about this and use it when it will be beneficial to children rather than make it a hard and fast rule about when and when not to use teacher/pupil dialogue.
28/10/2014 11:29:32 am
Secondary teacher here. <wave>
28/10/2014 11:34:37 am
Thanks for your comment. We also think dialogue is very important, just not in every lesson :)
28/10/2014 12:13:13 pm
Feel free to copy the images across if it helps. It's imposdible to gave a 1-1 conversation about marked work with every child every lesson but personally i have found their written responses very valuable. I get things like 'i found it hard but i've understood it now.' And also responses to questions i've asked in marking, for example 'How is the context of the novel reflected in the way Lennie is treated?' > 'there was no welfare or social security so someone who had no family and couldn't take care of themself (sic) would need friends.'
2/11/2014 11:59:51 am
I also agree that dialogue is very important. I assumed that kids knew what dialogue was, but to my surprise many of them did not know the meaning. Once I explained what it mean and how it is used then my students got it.
28/10/2014 11:32:27 am
Excellent piece. Common sense must prevail if the mental health of the teacher is to be preserved. Too often have I seen teachers writing reems of comments that students won't/ can't read. Nonsense. Save that energy and mark with purpose. Mark to help the child develop their learning and only do so when necessary.
28/10/2014 11:34:54 am
28/10/2014 11:57:24 am
Yay! Some common sense at last, of course OFSTED doesn't say you have to have dialogue but if you don't and you go into RI....
28/10/2014 11:57:53 am
We're supposed to focus mark 1 group per lesson. The teacher and TA focus groups can be marked in the lesson, and as they were working with an adult, don't need extensive dialogue as this can happen during the lesson.
28/10/2014 12:13:40 pm
Excellent insight, we mark every book, every lesson. Teachers use red pen and children respond in green. We make a 'good' comment and then a next steps. Their next steps is generally the same as mentioned above or linked to their own targets in literacy. Maths challenge could be a more complex question, identification of a Mr Muddle where they check an answer and explain where mistakes have been made in the calculation or a question related to task. I would love to see the I act of focus group marking.
28/10/2014 03:34:36 pm
Have you tried the Class Act app? It's fantastic for lightning quick mid lesson marking. You save a screen shot of the class and each student is colour coded from 'not achieving objective' to 'exceeding expectation'. It's excellent, easy and free.
28/10/2014 04:13:21 pm
Is that marking or assessing?
29/10/2014 01:19:32 am
Hi Rob, it's designed primarily as an assessment tool but it really depends on the teacher using it - marking and assessment are two sides of the same coin after all. For example; if you give child 'A' and 'P' a Red assessment mark that could be designated that they will work with the teacher at the start of the next lesson while the rest of the class have an independent task; or the students that get red will buddy up with the children that get purple (ensuring an organic buddy system that adapts lesson on lesson). The app also lets you take written notes. We may put it on one of our next blogs as it assessment and marking is one of the requests that we have been receiving the most of. It will be here http://goo.gl/Yz0nAx . We'll advertise it on Twitter also. It's great you posted this thread - dialogue between teachers is always the best solution and this is such a hot topic right now.
29/10/2014 12:49:23 am
Rob, we were 'done' last week. Marking was looked at for frequency feedback response and challenge.....
10/11/2014 01:42:03 pm
We had a staff meeting today in which we were told that comments like 'well done' and 'you worked hard' are not acceptable! What a load of rubbish! I think that children are sick of having to fix/ improve elements of their work each time they receive it back from the teacher; it seems it's never good enough. Of course I want my children to know what they can do to make their work even better but what's wrong with giving them a big pat on the back when they've done a great job? I think we're overthinking the marking and feedback process.
1/2/2015 08:42:26 am
Joanne, we were told the same! We need to get them to think about their work rather than point out what is wrong/missing. Well done, super etc are apparently useless to a child ☹
1/2/2015 08:42:44 am
Goodness, as a parent this depresses me. I want my child to be the centre of your marking, not the next steps, stars and wishes. The first thing I want is my child's feed back. Did she understand, ENJOY, understand the wider context, feel she put in a good effort? That last point is really important. My child has had lessons where she got great feedback and full marks but it was too easy, so she felt "why bother, I don't even have to try." In other lessons the pace of the lesson was too fast and she missed out on important information but had no way to ask the teacher; she wasn't on the TA's table, nor on the teacher's table, so she had no way to flag up her concerns. Personally, I don't give a fig whether a school is outstanding or RI. What I want is an education that prepares her for the future, which encourages love of learning that will continue for her whole life and that teachers her to be critical of herself in a positive way so she can see a way to finding out the things she wants to or needs to without waiting for someone else to decide when the right time is and then give only one chance to "get" it before the tick is given and the class moves on.
1/2/2015 09:34:59 pm
Excellent piece and valuable. We've discussed ofsted, nut and teachers wworkload. So one other point as a hardened child centre teacher... I read some research which addressed that if every piece of children work always has a comment on room for improvement are we denying a child of feeling satisfied with what they've produced. Basking in the glow. If every thing you did in life was never quite good enoughwould you loosevyour motivation. So are we infact holding them back in their internal self esteem and drive. I feel by allowing a child those little moments of glory, when a piece of work is good enough, we give them the inspiration to persevere at other challenging times.
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