Marking work twice – Are you mad?!

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and having just read
http://justtryingtobebetter.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/marking-is-feedback-is-differentiation-is-planning/ by @kennypieper thought I would add my current position on this.

I have started to mark work twice. In particular the assessment pieces in KS3 and exam questions/tests in KS4.

Why?

Well we have a policy at our school that once a piece of work has been completed students should use green pens to improve their work. The ideal is that you’ve feedback in your marking to them exactly what they need to do to improve the piece of work so it is simple for them to have a go at improving.

green pen

The key to this is that my initial feedback relates to the next level criteria up from what they achieved first time round and is something quick and easy they can do. I’ve found in some cases writing a question that they can answer, which then hits the level, is a good strategy. In other cases, my trusty stampers do the job at KS4.

Here are some examples of feedback I give…

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And then here are some examples of work that has been ‘green penned’….

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Finally, I have to mark it again. Not the whole thing. Just the green pen part. I have to consider whether the additions that have been made justify them making a difference to their level/mark. So far, 99% of students actually improve. Those that don’t generally have not read the feedback carefully enough.

So here is some ‘2nd time’ marking. And look out for my wonderful new stamper with ‘Great Improvements. Well done!’ showing where they have improved their work…

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An ‘easy’ win with the green pens are spellings. In my case the word ‘God’ seems to be regularly misspelt without a capital. Give out the green pens and they ‘instantly’ have improved their work.

So why doesn’t everyone do this? Well it takes time. It’s a psychological battle thinking you have to mark something twice. My argument would be that every student is making progress using this technique. What else takes them a few minutes but pushes them forwards so quickly? I record this in my mark book. Mark/Level from first draft and mark/level from second draft. Almost ‘instant’ progress within a lesson.

Even better, getting them to reflect on what they’ve actually done to improve their work helps them remember for the next time…

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So, with reference to Kenny’s post, I now believe that teachers that spend hours marking student work and don’t allow students to spend time working on the guidance are wasting their time. They may as well go back to the ‘Good work’ days.

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Strategic, Sustainable, Systems – why they are essential in a school

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My logical, strategic mind forces me to focus on HOW things are done as well as what the outcome will be. I do it naturally in my teaching where GCSE and A Level students never just do an exam paper and get it back. We analyse what they did, why and how they managed to get the answer. Quite a lot of my teaching is about the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’.

So, I believe that a school should follow these principles. For every aim, vision, objective or goal there should always be a ‘how’. That ‘how’ should be as simple as possible, using the expertise and skills of staff, and being made clear to everyone who is involved. To break it down, I think a school needs strategic, sustainable, systems.

    Strategy

OK so you have problems with boys underachieving, results for English and Maths are low, a high proportion of staff are teaching inadequate lessons or staff aren’t marking as they should, what will you do about it? Whatever you want to call it, there must be a plan. Not of what you want but how you will get to it.

I’ve seen many school development plans. I think the best was simple. They had 3 core aims and everything else in the document was a very brief explanation of what would be done to achieve this and who would be responsible for making it happen. How about a ‘keep it to two sides of a4’ policy on this?

The worst was almost a novel. Page after page of things that the people named would never get done or maybe by chance complete by default.

Who will be involved? The best way to get me involved is to pose something as a problem or a question. Offer the problem to your teams. Ask for strategies. We’re all professionals with hundreds of years of experience between us. Others will come up with more or even better ideas on how to tackle an issue. What SLT can address all issues by themselves without involving staff? It’s the staff who do the groundwork so involve them somehow in the process. (However this should not be lip service or then ignored. That’s the biggest way to demotivate your staff).

Finally, take comments, ideas and even criticisms on board. Why would someone bother to comment unless they really cared but thought that something needed to change? It’s not personal. The strategy isn’t one person’s. It’s everybody’s. And on a day to day basis it is the whole staff’s job to live out the strategy. Listen to them. Agree to disagree. But at least listen to what they’ve got to say.

Benefits

It makes everyone accountable.
Everyone knows why certain things are happening
It prevents rushed, unplanned, knee-jerk actions or initiatives
No secrets. Everyone is aware of what is being worked on. No hidden agendas.
Everyone can work towards the same simple aims

    Sustainable

When you start a new strategy you need to think of how likely it is that it will carry on. If you were to leave the school, would that strategy still work? It’s great to have someone strong in position where they are effective, but what happens when they leave? There is a large gap. In some ways that large gap can make things worse than they were before that person started the strategy.

Another area for consideration is, do you have the capacity at the moment for this to work? Are the named people able to do this effectively and efficiently? If not, best not to have a half hearted attempt. So many staff have experienced ‘experiment’ after ‘experiment’ on the use of their time that its almost like crying wolf, yet another thing they need to do that doesn’t last. This isn’t saying we shouldn’t try anything new but before you do something new, think about everyone involved, do some honest background research on whether people feel it would work and benefit the school. It may be heartbreaking to find that it isn’t the right moment but a carefully timed system will be many times more effective than a poorly timed one.

Benefits

Doesn’t waste people’s time
Continues when key people leave
Can be reviewed and modified

    Systems

I love systems. I like to know if ‘X’ happens then the consequence is ‘Y’ (This is why I love algebra!).

A school with clear, shared systems will give the foundations for everything else that we do.
For systems to be effective they need to be:

* Written or visually represented ( No ‘its the way we do it’ or ‘invisible’ systems)
Shared regularly with stakeholders and available in a central area accessible to all
* Applied in all situations (that are the same in nature) I.e the same actions results in the same consequence
* No ‘exceptions’ or ‘deals’ are allowed.
* It shouldn’t depend on ‘who’ is involved
* Monitored
* People made accountable if not followed
* Reviewed if not working and tweaked/developed where necessary
* Non-personal
* Recorded efficiently where all that need to see can see
* Be designed so that all can implement it. Skilled and unskilled. The system should still be effective.
* Have valid reasoning behind it ( not a rule for a rule’s sake)

Systems can’t cover every situation. That’s why we are specialists and have people in roles to deal with these situations. Their professional knowledge and judgements are essential.

Benefits

Fair and consistent to everyone
Can act as a deterrent in certain situations
Covers 95% of eventualities