First things first, download a blank copy of my whole class feedback sheet here: Feedback pro forma.
Marking has always been one of my least favourite aspects of being a teacher, as I am sure it is for many. It is laborious, time consuming and, if much of the research is to be believed, is one of the least effective ways of securing progress in our pupils. However, over the years I have refined my process on marking, trying out different methods, and following the declaration from Ofsted in 2018 that ‘Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback’ I also felt that I had the backing to reduce the frequency of my marking but, in theory at least, increase the productivity of my marking in terms of pupil outcomes. Following much trial and error I think I have finally hit on a method that works for me. A method which not only reduces workload and the amount of time taken to mark, but also increases the progress students make through feedback – as well as placing some onus on the pupils themselves and developing some amount of independent learning.
I feel at this point I need to put in a massive disclaimer: very little of what I am about to describe has been completely invented by me. It has been cobbled together from ideas I have found on Twitter, things which have been suggested to me by colleagues, as well as cannibalising the bits of marking policies from previous schools I have worked at.
So, at the end of this evolution, I am now marking using a form of whole class feedback. Essentially it revolves around two pro-formas I have created and how they are used.
Step 1 – Mark the work
The first thing I do is read through the work. When I am doing this, I will tick things which are right/done well, use codes to indicate spelling mistakes etc. and give an overall mark (if appropriate) and an effort grade. What I don’t do is write any detailed comments, WWWs, EBIs etc. on individuals work. Instead I add common mistakes and common strengths to my first whole class feedback (WCF) pro-forma (see below for an example of a completed one). I will give specific feedback to pupils if they have done something which is unique to them (or way off the mark) but generally I write very little on each individual pupil’s work. This is what reduces the workload and time consuming nature of my marking the most (I also use a microphone and Google Docs to convert verbal comments into a typed form, which I then just copy and paste into the correct parts of the WCF pro-forma. This further reduces the time it takes to mark – although you do feel a little bit of a fool talking to yourself in a classroom on your own to begin with).
Step 2 – Give them back their work
The next thing to do is to give the pupils their work back. I tend to staple the WCF pro-forma to their sheets if their work is on paper, or into their book on the relevant page if it is not. I will then spend some time reading through the comments I have made on the sheet, with the class giving further explanation/examples as to what I mean, addressing common misconceptions, as well as highlighting those pupils who did really great work (so others can seek them out should they want to see what a great answer looks like).
Step 3 – Pupil self-identification
My next stage is to ask pupils to re-read the work which they have completed and identify the comments which most apply to their work. For a long time I was critical of whole class feedback because I felt that pupils weren’t getting feedback which is directly relevant to their work (and also because I felt many pupils would simply not read all the comments I had written). By asking the pupils to re-read their work and identify which parts of the WCF pro-forma apply to them it has a number of benefits:
- By re-reading the work the pupils effectively revise the topic again, familiarising themselves with something we studied in the not too distant past.
- They have to carry out a form of self-assessment – working out where they went wrong. Not only does this help develop independent learning but if they are able to identify what things they specifically did wrong, the act of doing this means they are more likely to remember not to do it again in the future.
I ask the pupils to identify the feedback which most applies to their work and to highlight it on the sheet, like below.
Originally when I started using this technique, this is the stage I would leave it at, but I have subsequently developed some more steps in my process.
Step 4 – Consolidation and tracking
I then ask pupils to fill in a tracking pro-forma, which is given to them at the beginning of the year. Some Year 10 examples are below:
As you will see from some of the comments, this is not yet a perfect science. It takes a while with some classes to move away from ‘put in more detail’ to more specific feedback. On the other hand, it does allow the pupils to further consider where they went wrong and embed some of the techniques required for next time. I will often get these tracker sheets out the next time the pupils complete a similar question, so they can identify where they went wrong last time and make a real effort not to do it again in the question they are about to attempt. This tracking also has an added bonus of allowing pupils to identify if they are making any repeated mistakes, and also to see their own progress at different types of skills. It also provides an easy document which I can later refer to when writing reports or during parents’ evenings!
Step 5 – Redraft
This is the dream, however it is a step I admittedly rarely do due to curriculum pressures – despite its utility. The final step is to ask the pupils to redraft their work and create an improved version based on what they have learnt they did wrong the first time. This further consolidates and embeds the skills and technique which they have identified as needing improving, and allows the pupils to realise that they can get better and improve.
This approach to marking has saved me vast quantities of time and has actually meant that I get much more marking done in the time I dedicate to it. It has also meant that the task of marking appears less burdensome, and therefore I am less likely to leave it to the bottom of my pile of things to do. Now marking seems less onerous, more purposeful and more productive. Finally, and most importantly, I believe it is genuinely a more productive method of marking which helps pupils make more progress.
Teacher of History