Are you a clean marker?

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The report from the Independent Teacher Workload Review group with a focus around eliminating unnecessary workload around marking from March 2016 makes interesting reading though some may say that it's conclusions are quite subtle.

The starting point though is very well stated that "providing written feedback on pupils work has become disproportionately valued by schools and has become unnecessarily burdensome for teachers. That marking should become meaningful, manageable and motivating is a challenge for school leaders but at it's heart any policy on marking and feedback must be focussed on outcomes. A welcome statement in the report is this one

Feedback can take the form of spoken or written marking, peer marking and self-assessment. If the hours spent do not have the commensurate impact on pupil progress: stop it and perhaps another one is the assertion that teachers and teaching assistants do not need to write verbal feedback given on pupil work to prove that they have given feedback. The proof of the feedback is in the progress of the pupils and the outcomes that they achieve.

For many schools the need to improve Ofsted grades have meant a drive to show the volume of feedback and pupil response but in the Ofsted handbook it is clearly stated that

"Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.

At Fulcrum we have become really interested in the work carried out by Caitlin Walker around Clean Language and in particular on Clean Feedback. Clean Language is a questioning technique developed by psychotherapist David Grove and Clean Feedback was developed by Caitlin Walker and Dee Berridge as a way of developing their ways of working effectively with groups (see From Contempt to Curiosity Creating the conditions for groups to collaborate by Caitlin Walker Clean Publishing 2014).

Clean language around marking would ask;

When a student reads their feedback, what would you like to have happen? Once this has been explored it is then possible to consider what would need to happen in order to achieve the stated outcome. The clean feedback would then be delivered around three points evidence, inference and impact.

For example English teachers may design a feedback sheet to reduce the burden of marking an essay.

Evidence Punctuation is limited to full stops, in the whole essay you haven't used any commas

Inference You haven't reviewed your work and checked the punctuation

Impact I've dropped your mark from 58 to 50

What to do next time

Evidence I want to see that you have checked your work and adjusted the punctuation by using a different coloured pen

Inference You will have carefully checked your work and showed your knowledge of punctuation.

Impact Your mark will have improved to over 60.

Although this approach may not be suitable for every phase of a child's education the report states Accepting work that pupils have not checked sufficiently and then providing extensive feedback detracts from pupils responsibility for their own learning, particularly in editing and drafting skills. Pupils should be taught and encouraged to check their own work by understanding the success criteria, presented in an age appropriate way, so that they complete work to the highest standard.

A clean marking approach would at the very least ask teachers to consider what they want pupils to do when they receive marked work and this question could equally be asked of pupils, it would make a great classroom display and would mean that when ofsted calls the evidence will be that feedback is understood and acted upon by pupils, that the assessment policy is consistent, manageable and motivating and that pupils achieve good outcomes.

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