The improvement of marking and feedback has consistently been a priority for Kingsford Community School. They have launched a number of initiatives to improve the quality of the feedback they provide students and recently have focused on involving their students more in the process through dialogic marking. They are confident that their use of dialogic marking is dramatically improving the quality of students’ progress and the impact of feedback the students are given.
Kingsford Community School is a specialist language school and a leading Confucius classroom. As part of the Leading Edge network their aims are to ‘be at the forefront of developments in teaching and learning’.
Kingsford is large with nearly 1500 students on roll, over 60% of whom are eligible for free school meals and well over half speak English as an additional language.
Kingsford’s most recent Ofsted inspection in February 2013 rated it as a ‘good’ school, in particular praising the ‘outstanding’ leadership and management of the school and outstanding for pupil behaviour.
NOR: 1450 (highest quintile)
Girls: 48% (4th quintile) Boys: 52% SEN: 6.1% (4th quintile)
FSM/PPI: 61% (highest quintile).
Reason for action
Marking and feedback has consistently been a priority for Kingsford. This is primarily because they are aware that it can have a significant impact on pupil progress as pointed to by the EEF toolkit and the research of John Hattie and the Sutton Trust.
Furthermore, the school is conscious that there is a need for greater focus on book work with the removal of levels and transition to linear assessments to ensure pupil progress is accurately monitored.
While marking and feedback in general has been on the school’s radar for some time, the specific focus on student responses to feedback was initiated by a combination of feedback from students and the school’s latest Ofsted report. Students were asked about their role in the feedback process and it was clear that their role in the process could be clarified and enhanced.
The specific focus on student responses to feedback was initiated by a combination of feedback from students and the school’s latest Ofsted report.
The report highlighted the fact that ‘teachers do not always make sure that students respond to marking’ and suggested that by ensuring students did respond actively to marking, their progress would improve.
Kingsford were motivated by research from John Hattie and the Sutton Trust. Hattie’s Visible learning and Visible learning for teachers place feedback as one of the most effective ways to improve student achievement.
Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas also point to the importance of feedback in their contribution to Redesigning Schooling – 2: What kind of teaching for what kind of learning? [full pamphlet available to members]
Furthermore, the EEF toolkit estimates that feedback can have an average impact of up to eight additional months on pupil progress, stating that feedback ‘has high impact for low cost, based on moderate evidence’.
The school started off by auditing their current provision. This included analysis of policies by staff as well as interviews with pupils to establish how involved they felt in marking and feedback. It became clear that students were not as involved in the marking process as they could be and that there was work to be done to establish and embed dialogic marking consistently across the school.
An audit of provision included analysis of policies by staff as well as interviews with pupils to establish how involved they felt in marking and feedback.
As a result the marking policy was changed, with a new emphasis placed on the need for dialogic marking to be a regular feature in students’ books. The policy was launched at an all staff Inset, during which the staff were shown clips from the interviews that had been carried out with students.
The policy aimed to ensure that students were aware of the improvements they needed to make and acted on the feedback given. Kingsford’s solution was relatively simple: to give every student a red ‘response’ pen that they were to use to respond to marking in their books.
This would make it clear to anyone looking that feedback was being responded to and also made it clearer for the students what was expected of them when given feedback. It is now the norm, as the routine has settled in, for students to improve their work based on the feedback they have been given.
Alongside this initiative, staff were given specific training on dialogic marking and the approaches that would work best. Following initial teething problems this included the use of the ‘4Rs’, which are explained in more detail in the section below. Students too were given specific sessions on how they were expected to respond to feedback and how the red pens should be used.
Kingsford’s solution was relatively simple: to give every student a red ‘response’ pen that they were to use to respond to marking in their books. This would make it clear to anyone looking that feedback was being responded to and also made it clearer for the students what was expected of them when given feedback.
In order to ensure consistency, and target support for staff where necessary, Kingsford set up a rigorous monitoring process. The school have regularly carried out whole-school work scrutiny, the results of which have been evaluated, with best practice shared as well as support targeted where necessary.
The school has used BlueSky to store work scrutiny and keep a record of the progress and impact of their initiatives. This has been supplemented by collaboration within the school as teachers have shared best practice and heads of department have worked together to ensure high standards are maintained throughout the school.
The school also realised that the way assessments were handled did not allow students to benefit from the feedback as much as they could. As a result the school have redesigned all of their assessments to include a front sheet to allow students to reflect and make improvements where appropriate. This has allowed students to see assessments as beneficial to their learning and not just a validation of their current level of understanding.
The new measures took a while to settle in as would be expected. However, students’ understanding was initially limited and it was evident that they would need more scaffolding and explanation of the concept in order to fully grasp it.
As a result Kingsford borrowed the 3Rs (read, reflect, and respond) and added their own 4th R: ‘red pen’, to fit their approach. The 4Rs were then used throughout the school by every teacher. The message was also passed on in specific assemblies to make sure that students were aware of the expectations when it came to responding to feedback.
Targeted support was given to teachers where appropriate and best practice was shared across the school at ‘marketplace’ CPD sessions.
This simple, consistent and persistent messaging meant that students quickly began to understand their role in the feedback process, overcoming some of the initial problems the school encountered.
Through the rigorous monitoring of marking and feedback the school was able to identify best practice as well as areas in need of improvement. Targeted support was given to teachers where appropriate and best practice was shared across the school at ‘marketplace’ CPD sessions.
This approach allowed the new policies to be implemented quickly and effectively across the school with any areas needing development quickly and effectively addressed.
The focus on students’ response to feedback has been part of a more general focus on marking and feedback at Kingsford and is also one of the more recent developments. As such, establishing the direct impact of the changes explored here will be difficult and may also take some time to embed. This being said, Kingsford have seen some key impacts:
- The staff’s attitude to marking has changed, with its profile being raised and an understanding of its power to influence students’ progress more widespread.
- Students are now far more aware of the importance of marking and feedback and understand their role in the process and the benefits it holds for their learning.
- Monitoring systems have become far more rigorous allowing best practice to be spread, and support to be targeted where it is needed most.
Kingsford have two main priorities for the future:
- To communicate their marking policy to parents to ensure they understand it and can become involved in the process.
- To obtain more feedback from students to monitor the impact they perceive the changes to have developed.
This article is taken from our Redesigning Schooling in Action series. The series includes case studies from SSAT member schools that focus on five areas:
- Teaching for learning
- Principled curriculum design
- Principled assessment design
- Courageous leadership for professional accountability
- The new professionalism.
SSAT member? You have access to more than 20 case studies in the member area of our website. Find out more here.
Kingsford Community School is part of the SSAT network – find out more about membership here.