As I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t blog very often (BIG understatement there). I know I should, and it’s always on my list of things to do more of. But I haven’t got there yet! However, this post is different. This is the one that has the possibility of causing a big, no huge, nay seismic, change. And that’s why I’m writing this now.

Marking. Most probably the one thing that teachers say takes up the most amount of time. If you add up the hours spent marking books there’s no way that amount of time has the impact for the time taken. And I dare say there won’t be many teachers who would give up the chance at not having to do any marking ever again. That’s a big ask though isn’t it, never having to mark again? And it’s entrenched in the whole education system that children’s books are marked…

So, how do we go about changing that then? I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about just that. Marking is feedback, and feedback has a big impact on learning. Massive. It tops the table at the Education Endowment Foundation research toolkit website. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to write it all over kids’ books at the end of every day. There has to be a more effective way. And I believe, I really do genuinely believe, that what we are currently trialing at school is that more effective way.

How’s it working then, and how did we get to this point?

We have been looking at ways of reducing teacher workload in school, and the marking policy was one that we had revised, and revised again over the past couple of years. But I still wasn’t happy with it. After having a discussion with our KS1 leader, an idea began to form in my head (to be fair there’s lots of space in my head most of the time for that sort of thing) about how feedback was the answer – verbal feedback being the priority. Children in Early Years and KS1 who can’t read, or not very well, HAVE to have feedback given verbally as anything written is just a waste of time. So if those children make progress, then surely, the same approach should work for all children? Simplistic? Maybe. Worth looking at? Absolutely. So off I went.

We’re now at a point, after lots of thinking, discussing, arguing (!) and being challenged (see here) to go forward. And going forward we are. Just in a couple of classes at the moment so we can review, evaluate, tweak or revise the practice. And the practice is where we’re focusing. This is how it’s working at the moment:

Each lesson (Maths and English at the moment) is structured in such a way that there are two specific times for focused feedback to groups/individuals, and two specific times for what we are calling ‘understanding sweeps’. These are undertaken by both the class teacher and the LSA that we have in each class. A total of four focused opportunities in each lesson to pick up on misconceptions/give specific feedback/challenge children. Using more tightly- focused learning objectives and success criteria the opportunity to further embed self and peer assessment is also becoming more important and valuable. Mini plenaries are also being used to focus learning and understanding. Set groupings have gone out of the window and children are now grouped each lesson based on previous assessment or an knowledge gained through the lesson introduction, through questioning and self assessment etc. Again this gives us opportunity to further focus the feedback during the lesson.

How’s it going then? What’s the feedback from staff and children?

So far, overwhelmingly positive. Maths is proving to be easier to work in this way in than English, and the practice will have to be refined and tweaked to deal with this. But so far, the pros far, far outweigh the cons. Staff trialing it are very excited about the possibilities and children are loving the fact that they ‘get more time with the teacher’.

Early days so far, but everything looking positive. I’m convinced we are on the right road with this and while it’s more demanding on staff during the lesson, they don’t have piles of books to mark at the end of the day!

So nothing particularly revolutionary about anything, but I believe that they way the lesson is structured, with many opportunities planned in for specific feedback during each one, is what is making the difference. And we are seeing progress in children’s work – so obviously the fact we are not marking in the traditional way certainly doesn’t seem to be having a negative impact.

If anyone is interested in more detail of how we are structuring the lessons, or wants to know how things develop over the next term or so, then I’m more than happy to share our journey here in the form of more blog posts.

Let me know what you think below.

And if you’ve got this far…thanks for reading 🙂