Monday, 11 March 2013

Improving my written feedback

My department and I are working in together to try out different strategies to improve the feedback that we give to pupils and the impact that it has on their learning. We want to move away from the traditional 'Tick or cross 20 sums' approach beloved of maths teachers since time began.

I chose the triads based on my knowledge of complimentary strengths of each of my team but each group has come up with their own action plan to research, share and develop individually and as a group and we'll be reporting our findings back to each other before taking best practice forward to create what I hope will be an effective, consistent and sustainable departmental policy.

This blog post will outline one of the things I've been playing with to improve the frequency and quality of my written feedback, which to be honest has always been a bit ropey - I know the right thing to do but don't always make the time to do it, for anybody other than my year 11s. Increasingly so as I've gained more responsibilities, inside and outside of school. I've compensated for it by becoming very good with verbal feedback but the thing that really made me think was when the head observed me for our whole school review and said the quality of written feedback is what stopped her giving my lesson a 1, it was the first time I'd dipped below a grade 1 for an observed lesson for several years. I argued a bit but deep down knew it could be better. Only question? How to improve without throwing my work -life balance entirely out of the window?

Brief notes below... ( it was orig going to be an email to my fellow triad members as we agreed that this is how we'd keep each other posted regarding what we had been trying out).

Once a week. Year 9 class in the double lesson ( 2hrs)

Make sure I speak to every student in the class individually and mark their book/work. Tell them I will be doing this at start of lesson. Not every single question but specific questions that I have targeted as they demonstrate the skills for the lesson or may require deeper understanding.

Talk to the students about the work as I normally would and ask them a supplementary question related to what they have done.

They answer verbally but I also write this question down in their books as we are talking and get them to write their response. Evidence of on going dialogue between me and students.

If the students are clearly stuck or making the same repeated mistake. I write a very clear comment that will help them to improve immediately. I talk to the student re the comment and they have to respond to it verbally and in writing either whole I am there or within 5 min, then call me back over. I've noticed that most students naturally go back and correct the questions that they have got wrong after this.

Sometimes I look back at work earlier in week and check understanding re that. If they aren't sure re their response, I leave them and give them time to do it before I return.

The beauty of this is that it isn't really any extra work- I'm just having a written record of what is happening verbally within my classroom. It requires me to have a quality individual conversation with every single student during the (2hr) lesson. So forces me to reduce teacher talk to the whole class and plan an activity where they learn but can work autonomously. I used to worry I would not get around every body but at various points I ask them to remind me if I have missed anyone and it works out.

As we have a normal conversation anyway, students don't ignore my comments and are fine responding to them in writing as we already have verbally.

I'm finding out some interesting things too. I saw a graph had been crossed out and asked the student why. They then gave a beautiful and detailed explanation of how after seeing somebody else's work they realised that the "jumps were wrong" so decided to start again. I write my question down and asked then to write exactly what they had told me as it clearly demonstrated that they had taken on board the need for correct scale. Then I responded to their comment too.

True dialogue about maths and all done as part of regular class routine. Result.

Lets hope that my colleagues A and M feel that my method has an impact on students learning when we complete our peer work scrutiny in the next within the next week.