Marking and Feedback

mark-804935__180Marking seems to take up a stack of my time (I feel slow) and I am passionate about making it a worthwhile learning experience for the students. And so, after considerable time consuming and being shaped by multitude of sources, I have decided to take the time and craft something of my own reflection on the topic of marking and feedback. This has been a journey covering more than a year so far and is one that I’m sure has more twists, turns and chapters to be written…

A key landmark for me was hearing from Dan Haesler at the 2014 3P Love Learning Conference. His seminar on ‘Growth v Fixed Mindset’ struck me and was perhaps the PL session that has led to the most significant changes in my teaching philosophy and practice to date. I went home from that session and almost immediately stopped providing grades – as recently as last month I took a copy of this article with me to parent-teacher interviews to ‘defend’ the approach I had taken. (EDIT: perhaps best/easiest summary is this site – summary of Dylan Williams work, includes link to his paper)

Although convinced of much of the discussion in these sources and recurring research since this time, I have recently been directed to change my approach to providing feedback to students. For almost a year I have not given marks back to students on their maths tests but have opted for a variety of different approaches to feedback (see more below). I have now been instructed that marks are to be given back –  I have managed to negotiate one condition though: students need to first provide their own reflective feedback on the task in order to ‘earn’ their mark back!

So… why am I recording all this? Well, I was keen for some critical reflection on the journey over the last year or so and to collate here a number of references to come back to with regards to marking and feedback. I am keen to review myself and see if I could have done things differently so that my current predicament didn’t occur (i.e.. now having to give marks back), and also to keep evolving more valuable feedback tools to help encourage growth in my students.

  1. At this point in time, I am convinced that the biggest error I made in implementing my ‘no marks’ policy was a lack of communication. This has become clear to me more recently as I reflecting on both my own implementation of the practice, as well as reading about some others approaches. Whilst I pretty much went and just stopped giving their marks (and then kind of enjoyed the debates that followed!), I read and nod my head at the sensibility of others (one in particular whom I unfortunately can’t put my finger on at the moment – argh!), who took the time to introduce the concept to students and explain its purpose, value and merits. I can see value in communicating some of that to parents in advance too.
  2. As part of that communication, I came across this lesson here (which I need to review further) that works through with kids a different grading strategy. I have also heard positive things about Fawn Nguyen, including her work on feedback with a highlighter.marking-pin-156032__180
  3. In terms of things that did work well for me… I tried various techniques of marking and feedback. It ‘felt’ worthwhile when I set out: writing two – three points of feedback per student, regardless of their score. This included a student who got 100% once but I was able to push them further on a question. Other times I have tried a range of methods, such as getting them to write their own feedback and crafting my marking as ‘prompts’ to find the answers themselves. One that I liked, perhaps more for its efficiency, was marking by ‘coding’ errors with a number, then uploading a google docs file the students needed to refer to for the feedback. For me it put some responsibility back on them, was measurable enough for me to see if they’d amended their work and also was efficient enough from a marking perspective.

The plan from here as flagged above is that students will now get papers back with markings on them (haven’t locked in a format) that they then need to take away, work on, and bring it back to me if they want their mark (students are often so fixed on getting a mark back!!). Meanwhile, I’ll keep reflecting, adjusting, researching, trialling approaches that work (ideally in terms of efficiency and effectiveness). As I keep journeying, I’ll add links below to further articles on marking/feedback etc. that I’ve found useful/stimulating along the way.


This article/file is quite interesting on the idea of re-doing a task not done well (Redos and Retakes Done Right). Kind of connected to feedback…

There’s also the article on test corrections that motivated the policy we drafted to use at school.

Another addition I came across here provides a decision tree and discussion around evidence on feedback.

The UK’s ‘Improving Teaching’ site had a number of links I enjoyed exploring – this one includes the key William quote below:

If I had to reduce all of the research on feedback into one simple overarching idea… it would be this: feedback should cause thinking  (Wiliam, 2011, 126)

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