There is a delicate balance to be established where marking and feedback is concerned! Time/effort versus impact, sustainability versus planning/preparation and energy versus the multiple other tasks that need attention are a constant battle for educators. The focus of this post is to help me reflect upon some of the implications and consider what core principles are involved and to generate some discussion within my PLN.
For the purpose of this post, I'm defining marking as the process of checking the work produced by students. There are a number of reasons why this is important and it can obviously be achieved in many ways:
- check work for completion to identify students who are either struggling or off-task (checking)
- identify common errors or misunderstandings in the subject matter in order to address these in future lessons (informing planning)
- motivational purposes as students want their work and effort to be looked at and valued (building relationships)
- support future planning based on the outcomes and identify any gaps (evidence informed planning)
- inform discussion about progress, effort, resilience and desirable difficulties (work ethic and engagement in the process)
- ensure the level of challenge and stretch is appropriate (progress)
- to provide a reflection point for the teacher to determine the effectiveness of delivery (reflective practice)
- provides subject specific feedback for the teacher (informing next steps)
This is not a comprehensive or scientific list by any stretch of the imagination and any approaches to marking must not be onerous or time consuming as the sheer scale of the job is tremendous for teachers on a full timetable. At its heart, marking should be for the teacher and purely an information gathering activity. Its fundamental purpose is to inform the teacher about how the students are progressing and identify levels of acquisition and areas that may need further work. A by-product of this is an opportunity for the teacher to reflect on the effectiveness of instruction and activities in terms of the output of student endeavour. I believe this is where whole class marking sheets and #RAG123 approaches can be very effective and do not demand hours of work for a set of books. The information generated from such activities informs planning and enables feedback to be specific to the progress of the students at any point. I assume here that for those looking for evidence for QA purposes, they would see that over time the planning and progress would be responsive to the output from students and obvious in the depth and complexity of output.
For the purposes of this post, I am defining feedback as the process of sharing information with students about the quality of their output. This is a very important aspect of learning and progress. Whether based on assessment, observation or reflection, students need information in order to understand what they are doing well, what they have acquired or can demostrate and specific new knowledge, skills or additional practice they need to make further progress. There is always lots of debate about feedback and how to do it well. There are many who are far more knowledgeable than me who have discussed this fervently on Twitter and for the sake of staying fixed on principles, I shall avoid making comment on the method as this is where the real battles and tensions raised at the start lie. Feedback is important because:
- students need to understand where they are in terms of the criteria they are following
- students need to understand the knowledge/skills they need to master next
- teachers need to introduce new content at the appropriate time and in the appropriate measure
- teachers need to provide feedback in language students can comprehend
- feedback provides a deeper understanding of the subject matter and contributes to building schema
- identification of specific development points in output can fuel the imagination and deepen engagement
Again, this is not an exhaustive list and based purely on my own understanding and experience. Getting this feedback to students as close the point of production is also a vital component and thus causes tension with regards to workload. On the other hand, the student is working in a vacuum without it and will not be able to make the necessary links with prior, current and future learning. Is the nature of the assessment and feedback formative or simply summative? This can also have a huge impact on the effectiveness of time/effort versus impact.
It is this thought that leads me to the concluding section of this post. Without a response to the feedback given, then what is the purpose of it being given. The power of formative assessment has been argued by researchers for some time now and if the feedback given doesn't lead to some sort of action, then it remains without purpose and will not have the desired impact on informing students of their position on the learning continuum, whatever that may be. In fact, in terms of progress, the most important aspect is the response to the feedback given. The response could obviously come in many forms and there are many different approaches shared frequently on Twitter and beyond. Doing something with the information feedback to students based on their output is a key aspect of supporting their progress and understanding over time.
To conclude my ramblings on this area, I would suggest that looking at these marking and feedback principles lead me to assert that it should not be over-complicated or over-ambitious because that in turn will have a negative impact on its effectiveness and desired impact. So here we go:
- Marking should inform the teacher and provide them with feedback data to be acted upon.
- Feedback should inform the students and provide data and information to be acted upon
- Marking should be regular and feedback should be given continuously and include both verbal and non-verbal approaches where appropriate
- Students should be given time and direction to respond and act upon feedback
- Evidence should be gathered from book looks, pupil voice, observations and standards over time against modelled expectations in order to judge the effectiveness of 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Please feel free to critique in the comments or on Twitter. I have generalised on purpose to hopefully fuel discussion.