TLT17: Session 1

Matt Pinkett on Feedback. “We’re spending too much time ticking, flicking and dicking about.” He will talk us through three methods of verbal feedback and give us an overview of the evidence base for written marking. 

Beginning with the latter, evidence on written marking (as opposed to feedback) is scant. There are relatively few valid trials. What we do know is that putting a grade on a piece of work reduces the impact that marking has. Tick and flick has no impact: kids and parents might like it, but this seems a bit self-service for the teacher. Better to tell the students youve looked at their books, but that ticking has no impact and then move on. Students do need time to respond, though Matt is moving towards making this an ongoing process rather than a one off DIRT-type thing. SMART targets are also important. Don’t be fuzzy! 

Matt does not mark books because he doesn’t think it is a good use of his time. Having said something similar to the History PGCE lot at Bristol yesterday, I find this comforting. I think tick and flick marking is the equivalent of deleting emails, or laminating. The time is better sent honing your teaching practice. 

Another reason: the written word is flawed. Trying to explain yourself in a SMART target is very tricky. It is better to talk through these ideas, with nuance and cadence, until you can be sure the student gets it. 

Another: mental health. Getting stressed about the marking is damaging. Doing the marking can be comforting and therapeutic, but the association of good and lots of marking is damaging to the profession. 

And margins are too small!

Matt does more verbal feedback, because it’s respectful: a sit down conversation helps to build the relationship and is arguably more respectful than many ticks. It’s motivating: if they know they’re going to talk with you about what they’re doing, there’s more incentive to get it right. It’s efficient: gets the job done quicker than writing it down. It’s easier.

Model 1: preach in practice. Call students to the desk individually. Give them a red pen and ask to see the piece of work they’re most proud of. Awkward at first but then they will start to open up a bit, and you can ask about a piece of work they’re embarrassed about. They stay for 7 or 8 minutes and you’ll get an idea about diagnosing the problem – easier to identify the errors in understanding and practice. Also gives you an idea about which students you need to see more of. Students can even complete the work in front of you, so you can watch the process. 

Model 2: crib sheet marking. Inspired by Greg Thornton. Using a whole class marking sheet helps to track common misconceptions. 

There’s a preach in practice box on here too, to flag up who needs conversations. This makes the written marking quicker, because the only thing that goes in books is literacy correction.

Model 3: visualiser marking. In response to a two assessment model being adapted at his school, followed by an instruction to mark everything in preparation for Ofsted, Matt used a visualiser (the new VAK of learning 😂) to mark some work of a student who volunteers for whole class marking. As he marks, he articulates the marking he’s doing. Then he does another, asking who thinks they might have done slightly better. Having done a couple, he then invites students to mark their own. Watching someone using a markscheme, and maybe struggling to do it, is instructive…and also I imagine gives them a much better grasp of the assessment criteria, which is indicated to have a big impact on progress. Matt found that his SLT were very keen on this. 

Questions.

What about the teacher who loves marking? Carry on! Do as much as you choose. Kids do value it, associating lots of marking with their perception of good teachers, but they don’t always know what is best for them. 

What sort of feedback have you had from parents? Matt is honest with them and provides evidence. It’s ok to know best, we are the professionals. 

How do you manage to have the conversations at the same time as teaching? Behaviour needs to be impeccable, so you need support from your leadership team. 

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