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Assessment and effective feedback

Alongside planning lessons, assessment and how we feedback is the most important activity we undertake to improve student understanding. It has been a long-held wisdom by some in the profession that the only way to do this effectively is by writing very long comments, that students must also respond to followed by a further response from the teacher; the so-called triple marking method. It is not something I have ever subscribed to nor ever done in my own practice. Feedback in this way is very time-consuming and rarely elicits a substantial response from students that improves their understanding of what they did well and how they need to improve further.

Please have a read of this guidance from Ofsted and the outcomes from recent research into this:

Advice to Ofsted inspectors:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/572048/School_inspection_update_November_2016.pdf

DFE workforce reform:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/511256/Eliminating-unnecessary-workload-around-marking.pdf

The best feedback from teachers is received immediately after the assessment, gives clear guidance regarding what is wrong and offers advice about how to improve further which students are asked to act upon straight away. This is how our check point system is designed to work. Check point assessments are not tests, they do not need to be carried out under exam conditions. They do not all need to be marked exclusively by a teacher. Check-points are assessments that replace the normal lesson by lesson assessment that a teacher normally undertakes, they are not in addition to it. Each check-point should have the following characteristics:

  • assess how well students have understood their most recent work;
  • students should know when the checkpoint is, how they will be assessed and have been taught all of the content;
  • be based around GCSE skills and knowledge, even in year 7 and 8;
  • be carried out in the same way by each subject teacher;
  • be the same task for every student in the year group and same tier of entry for the subject;
  • be designed to be assessed quickly so that feedback is prompt and useful.

It is good practise for students to undertake peer assessment of some check points, they will need to be taught how to do this accurately; teachers will need to sample and moderate their marking to ensure accuracy, however teachers do not need to mark every piece of work or check point task. Subject teams should also use their team meetings to moderate checkpoint marking across each year group to ensure a consistent approach has been taken.

The variety of check-point tasks therefore that can be undertaken can be very wide and could include:

  • spelling tests, quickly peer marked at the end;
  • short GCSE style examination questions, carried out as an assessed homework and peer marked at the beginning of the next lesson;
  • a student improving on a piece of work or question that the teacher has already marked – the mark awarded being on the remarked work;
  • a short GCSE question as a test, following completion of a similar question for which students have received feedback;
  • assessment following controlled assessment or other external examination component that is normally carried out;
  • a review of the quality of a task that students have been asked to complete, for example: in science drawing a graph; in maths explaining their reasoning behind solving a problem, in English their analysis of a piece of text, in languages a written piece in the target language.
  • Give students a piece of work to assess themselves (not their own work) and see how accurately they can do this – the check point score reflects the accuracy of their assessment. Teaching would need to have effectively supported developing in students the ability to assess.

In respect of written feedback i.e. marking, teachers should use their judgement regarding when this is the best way to feedback to students, what can take five to ten minutes to write can be conveyed to a student in a conversation in just a few seconds. Verbal feedback also offers students the opportunity to clarify their understanding whilst written feedback is one way. Students should always be given the opportunity to act on feedback; the assessment could be how they have responded to the assessment rather than the original task.

There is some very good practise that reduce time but increase the engagement of students, consider:

  • highlight work that is wrong in a students book, very effective for picking out spelling errors, incorrect answers in maths or science. The highlighting can be done during the lesson as students complete questions or carry out tasks. Give students time in the lesson or for prep to correct the highlighted aspects of their work. Each teacher simply needs a brightly coloured highlighter pen e.g. blue that is used and understood by students. Lessons need to be planned so that students are completing work independently of the teacher in order that the teacher has the time to go round the class and highlight work that is incorrect. Books could also be taken in with this approach taken.
  • Provide students with a list of tasks that need completing and traffic light each aspects so that students are aware when they have met or exceeded their target grade (G) are close to it (A) or are significantly below it (R). In the lesson whilst students are working focus your feedback on those students who are red and give them feedback. Ask students to write down the key aspects of the feedback so that they understand what they need to to get better.
  • Marking a sub-section of a class, for example, pupil premium students, the most able, the middle ability students, SEN in order to check and focus your teaching to ensure it is meeting a key groups needs. Over time ensure that you check each students work but not every student, every lesson.
  • Peer assessment and moderation. Spend time in lessons teaching students how to accurately assess work. We know as teachers that being able to assess work, particularly in more subjective subjects such as English or humanities is a higher order skill that requires very secure knowledge. If students are able to assess work accurately they will have developed a deeper understanding of the material. By asking students to swap with specific students they will also develop a broader understanding of different approaches to answering questions which will further improve their understanding.

In conclusion, our approach to marking and assessment should be as well planned as the curriculum content. The feedback we give should be designed to elicit the best response from students, sometimes this will be through written feedback, on other occasions verbally or by highlighting errors. We will always give students the opportunity to reflect on, ask questions and improve their work. Our check points should replace much of the on-going teacher assessment, reflect the range of skills and knowledge students needs to complete GCSEs successfully and be carried out in a consistent way across the team in order that the information we use for intervention and report home is accurate and useful.

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