This is the fourth of five posts featuring Ross Morrison McGill’s mainstage presentation at the SSAT National Conference 2015. Ross is @TeacherToolkit.
How do we do this? How do we address this marking frenzy and start to focus on what’s important? In my school, we are developing our teaching and learning policy – a one-page summary. Behind it will sit the detail with examples and already this policy is 20 pages long! Now I know already, no-one is going to read it, so I’ve got to make it concise – cut the waffle out and go straight to the point.
We’ve moved to Google, we’re a Google school and it’s superb for workload – there’s no more saving version 12, version 13, version 14, of different documents… As you work, it’s there online and it’s live. Even in the first week of our using it last September, you could see staff starting to collaborate on particular presentations, and the students too. It was superb! If you’re not using Google, I would highly advocate it for you.
No-one is going to read a 20-page teaching and learning policy… you have to cut the waffle.
Within the one-page summary, there is series of bold keywords, hyperlinked which lead to more detailed information, such as examples and photos of best practice. We hope to have one-page summaries in classroom displays and it will be used in our teacher planners and that staff will know it and understand it.
I must emphasise that we don’t want everyone to use the same model, but we do want some consistencies to help raise standards.
In my school, our old teaching and learning policy had a one-page summary, with 20 pages of detail behind it. No-one is going to read that, so I had to make it concise – cut the waffle out and go straight to the point.
We introduced an MER (monitoring, evaluation and review) cycle to steady the workflow and workloads, so staff knew what was coming in tour efforts to improve. It’s on my blog, if you want to grab a copy.
So, in terms of marking, this is what it says in the ‘mark’ section of our learning policy. We want teachers to have a secure overview of all their students; knowing their data inside-out and understanding the progress of students.
Formative feedback: we introduced the Yellow Box. A mechanism for reducing workload and for developing marking and feedback to be more meaningful and direct so that students could act on feedback.
Marking should be regular. If marking is not happening, then it’s not regular. How you define that is up to the curriculum leader. The frequency is proportionate to the curriculum time.
The marking code is still developing, but again, we aren’t going to beat teachers over the head with a stick about this. Yes, we want teachers to mark books, but more importantly we want students to act on the feedback that they receive.
Marking should be regular. If marking is not happening, then it’s not regular.
We know from John Hattie among others that if feedback is meaningful and sophisticated it can aid progress, significantly. And as Mary Myatt has brilliantly pointed out: ‘we want higher quality, not truckloads of ticks… and fewer things done really well.’
Recently, we looked at the way our new marking policy was working and still I’ve got teachers just ticking, ticking, ticking, ticking… absolutely wasting their time, with no value to the student whatsoever. So, it’s just best not to do it.
Finally, Ofsted does not expect to see a frequency of marking. Ofsted does not expect unnecessary written dialogue between student and teacher.
I’ve written about verbal feedback stamps. They might work for you, but I don’t think they work; verbal feedback should be ‘verbal’. You shouldn’t be stamping books to prove something to somebody else!
Read the other articles in the series
Ross Morrison McGill is @TeacherToolkit, the ‘most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK’, an award winning deputy headteacher who writes the ‘most influential blog on education in the UK’ and one of the most widely read across the world. Once nominated for ‘500 Most Influential People in the Britain’ by The Sunday Times in 2015 and ranked one of the ‘Top-100 Brands in Education’ worldwide by Onalytica; McGill was nominated for ‘Teaching Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London.’ He writes for Schools Week newspaper and for Guardian Education and is also the founder of @SLTchat and co-author of the #5MinPlan.
Ross’ school, Quintin Kynaston, is part of the SSAT network. Find out more about membership here.