Archive for category Marking, Feedback and Assessment

Developing Quality Peer and Self Assessment

In this post, I will go over a few strategies that I use in my lessons to improve the  quality  of peer and self-assessment.  While this is not a stand-alone training session but instead simply a collection of resources and tools that I use with my classes, they could easily be put together to become a discreet CPD session on developing skills in using peer and self-assessment.

Strategy 1: Aiding student reflection and metacognition

This is a very simple resource that I used in lots of my lessons as a plenary  between activities.  I have built a reflection display using the sentence stems here that occupies a wall of my classroom.

The sentence stems are as follows:

  • The most difficult thing was…
  • I think I need to improve on…
  • I now understand that…
  • I am now able to…
  • If I did my work again I would change…
  • I have learnt today…
  • The thing I enjoyed most about today’s lesson was…
  • The term………..was used today. It means…
  • A question I have about the lesson is…
  • The progress I have made today is…

The PowerPoint (attached below) can be randomised to provide an instant plenary or you can allow students to choose for themselves; the important thing is that the students are taking time to think carefully their learning.

Reflection posters

Strategy 2: Ensuring good peer-assessment comments

When teachers begin to use peer-assessment comments with their groups, they are often surprised at the poor quality of comments the students make.  The lesson to learn from this is that, like anything else, students need to learn how to be good at assessing work: we can’t just expect them to have as good a grasp of assessment as we have.  They need to learn how to assess work properly.  The great thing about peer-assessment is that if students develop skills in accurately judging and assessing other people’s work, they also improve at their own.

When students first start to peer-assess and they are not explicitly shown how to do this, they very often make comments like good handwriting,or write more next time, comments that give no guidance on how the work could be improved. The trick is to get them writing comments that explicitly look at the success criteria for the work and, in particular, which of these criteria have missed or used incorrectly.

Some strategies for building peer-assessment skills:

  1. Use a success criteria.  There is pretty much no point asking students to peer-assess a piece of work if they don’t have a success criteria or mark scheme to work from.  Otherwise, how will they know what they are judging the work against? The success criteria needs to be very clear and easy to understand, and students need to be reminded again and again that they should mention the criteria specifically when they set targets.
  2. Model peer-assessment for the students, using their own work.  This can be done in a variety of different ways.  One way that I often use is to take a photo of student work using my iPhone and then email it to myself.  I then add the image to a slide so that all the students can see it.  Finally, I assess it and write comments in exactly the way that I would wish them to.  Although I have yet to do this, another potential strategy is through using a webcam connected up to your interactive whiteboard to allow for ‘live’ marking.
  3. Get students to annotate success criteria on pieces of work. To help them get familiar with the idea of judging a piece of work against a criteria, it can often help to have them annotate the piece of work they are assessing with the criteria before they write comments.  If you get them to copy the success criteria down in the margin, they can also tick these off as they find them.  Finally, it can help to give the students a different coloured pen to do this, as well as to write comments, as this will stand out from the normal ink colour as well as feeling more like ‘proper’ teacher marking.  I use green.
  4. Give students examples of good and bad comments.  The attached resource is a list of ‘banned comments’ such as ‘Good handwriting’, and ‘Next time add more detail’ as well as a list of sentence starters for more success criteria based peer comments, for example ‘You have not met all of the criteria because…’

Good Peer Comments

3. Encouraging Dialogic Marking

This is a fancy way of saying that students should enter into a dialogue with their work and with each other about the improvements that they make to it.  The procedure for using dialogic marking is as follows:

  1. Students complete a piece of work according to a success criteria
  2. This work is marked, either by the teacher or by a student.  Comments are written which point out which criteria are missing from the work
  3. Students improve on their initial piece of work, attempting to make the improvements required
  4. Dialogic Marking: put the students in pairs and ask them to complete the following sequence of tasks –  a) Show your partner what you were told to improve. b) Explain to them how you improved it. c) Ask them to write a comment proving that you met your targets d) Swap and repeat.

When discussing their targets, I have found that it helps to give the students a ‘script’ to use, and some sentence starters / models to help them write good comments:


In the ‘write a comment’ stage, it is also useful if students are aware to base their comments explicitly on the initial target set and whether this has been met.  Any areas of shortfall should be mentioned in this.

Please find below slides containing the explanation of and resources related to dialogic marking.

Dialogic marking



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Using an Exit Ticket to Guide Planning

This post links back to one particular element of my 10-Minute Skill Builders posts, a series of sessions designed to help teachers develop core skills through a series of short training sessions.

In this particular one, I focused on an element of Assessment for Learning that I think is incredibly effective  -not to mention simple and quick – in making lesson planning responsive to what students achieved in the previous lesson.  The idea is that for their plenary, the teacher designs a question or task that tests for the achievement of the learning objective.  Good questions or tasks should be designed so that they test for misconceptions, giving quick and clear information to the teacher about exactly what needs to be covered in the following lesson(s).

I personally would take the use of an exit-ticket at the end of a lesson over pretty much all other Assessment for Learning techniques; I think that when done well they fundamentally demonstrate what good AfL should be about.

Success criteria for a good exit ticket:

  1. Designed to test for achievement of the learning objective
  2. Helps the teacher to determine misconceptions / issues with student understanding
  3. Quick to mark: the teacher should be able to work through an entire class set in under 10 minutes.  I go through mine immediately after the lesson in the space before my next class comes.

The procedure for using an exit ticket, as discussed in the session, is as follows:

  1. Teach a lesson
  2. Ask students to complete an exit ticket, answering a question / set of questions that clearly tests whether the objective has been achieved
  3. Mark the exit ticket after the lesson
  4. Design a task for the beginning of the next lesson which responds to the different mistakes made on the exit cards

I attach the session below, which contains an example of a learning objective, exit ticket question and a before and after example of an exit ticket that a student in one of my classes completed.  I hope this comes in handy!

10 Minute Skill Builders 6 – Exit Tickets to Guide Planning


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Quick and Efficient Marking

One of the things that I found most challenging as a trainee teacher was meeting the school enforced, ‘every book every two weeks’ marking policy, let alone marking after every single lesson.  In fact, the trainee teachers at my school often see marking as one of the most stressful elements of their job; many really struggle with – and feel cripplingly guilty about – their ability to keep up with the demands of marking all their books.  I think this happens for a few reasons:

1) Marking books is a task that takes an awfully long time, especially if you feel that you need to write long personalised comments in each book (which many new teachers do).

2) It is a boring task, resulting in sub-par performance.  The heavily administrative nature of the job means that it is easy to become sidetracked, begin to day dream or simply stop being efficient.  This means that a potential hour long job can take twice the time.

3) Marking is the task the is never done.  There is no end-point in the on-going cycle; once you have finished one set of books, there is always another to do.  This psychological effect has an massive impact on the will to mark.

4) A reason that affects trainee teachers more particularly than anyone else: when you don’t really know what you are doing, every task within teaching is incredibly time consuming.  Take planning lessons, for instance. While experienced teachers can plan a good lesson in (say) half an hour – or sometimes even less – new teachers can often take three hours to plan a single lesson.  Walking out in front of a class without a lesson plan is understandably more terrifying than failing to mark their books.  As a result, other more urgent tasks take precedence over the, often equally important, task of marking student work.

In my own practice, I had a moment of realisation about book marking after reading Joe Kirby’s fantastic post on the issue.  I have unashamedly stolen parts of my book marking CPD session from this.

The post chimed with some of my thinking about marking, thinking that had been lurking in the back of my mind for some time.  In particular it helped me to see the following truths about marking books:

  1. There is no point marking absolutely every piece of work that the students ever do.  Most students don’t – at least in my current school – automatically respond to their marking and internalise the targets on their own.  They only do this if there is a manageable amount for them to work on, and if they are given directed lesson time to do so.  As a result, it makes sense only to mark the final or largest piece of work in a lesson.  To rephrase, giving the students their books back with numerous pages marked at the same time is pretty much pointless.
  2. Students find lots and lots of targets difficult to manage.  As a result, setting loads of targets and writing long comments is often counterproductive as the student does not bother with any of them, and can find them discouraging.  From this, it is clear that a limited number of short, simple, easy to understand targets will result in a better outcome for the student.
  3. Students need to be given time to address their targets.  There is no point marking books and then ploughing on with another topic.  While some students will address these in their own time, for most the marking will be ignored and the teacher’s time will have been spent in vain.
  4. If you have a book check coming up and are worried about lots of unmarked space in the books, there is absolutely no point spending hours flicking through books and writing comments on each page.  Yes, maybe you should have spent more time marking, however writing those pointless comments in the books does absolutely nothing for your students.  It is, therefore, a waste of time.

The session:

As a result of my thinking on the issue of marking, I decided to give a session to the trainees about how to mark books quickly and efficiently while also maximising the impact that their marking has.  The session contains four different techniques for marking.  All of them mean that a set of books (or at least a piece of work from the most recent lesson in a set of books) can be marked in under twenty minutes.  My record is nine.

Technique 1: Coded marking.  This technique involves writing a comment bank of numbered comments.  The teacher reads the student work and annotates it with numbers matching the appropriate comments (I think that there should be a maximum of three to avoid swamping the student).  At the beginning of the lesson, students copy out the appropriate comments and are then given time to address them.

Technique 2: Traffic Light Marking. Instead of even commenting on work at all, this technique simply requires teachers to add a block of colour underneath the work: green for the learning objective being met, yellow for partially met and red for not met.  At the beginning of the lesson, students choose from three different tasks corresponding to their colour, with the greens completing an extension task, the yellows perhaps working on improving their work and the reds given extra scaffolding and another chance to complete the task.  This marking style is not appropriate for every type of lesson, but I think works really well in subjects like maths.

Technique 3: Exit ticket marking.  I have talked more about exit tickets in this post.  Rather than marking the books at all, this technique requires students to complete an exit ticket in which they demonstrate their learning.  The teacher then marks the exit tickets before handing these back the following lesson.  Students then complete a task corresponding to the comment on their ticket and glue the ticket into their book.  In the past, I have combined this with technique 1, using a numbered code on the exit tickets.

Technique 4: Coded literacy marking. This marking strategy deals with the problem of marking for literacy, something which could fall by the wayside if the above techniques are followed on their own.  This uses symbols to match different potential literacy errors, for example C for a capital letter problem, SP for a spelling error and an underlined section for when a part of the work makes no sense and the student must go back and fix it.  There are some important rules to be followed when using this technique: firstly, I think that there should be a maximum of 3-4 instances of this code in a piece of work, otherwise students can find it very discouraging and can feel swamped.  Second, as with all the other techniques, students should be given time to address these mistakes then and there.

I am not saying that these are a complete replacement for written comments, however I do feel that marking is an area in which many teachers spend their time inefficiently.  Sometimes it is entirely appropriate to lavish hours on marking student work, but on the other hand sometimes these hours of marking have little or no impact on the students themselves.  Through using the above techniques, teachers have an opportunity to mark work after every single lesson, which surely provides a massive benefit to students, even if the marking is that little bit less personalised.

In-built uptake time: To avoid the CPD paradox, discussed elsewhere on this blog, I think that it is important for participants in a CPD session to have time within the session itself to implement their learning.  Discussing and sharing the techniques took me about 25 minutes, meaning that there was another 30 minutes of actual marking time.  I asked participants to bring a set of books to the session and issued them with a 15 minute marking challenge in which they chose a system appropriate to them and used this to mark an entire set of books.  All of them managed this within the set time frame.

Please find the Power Point of the session, containing all the resources required, below:

Quick and Efficient Marking

I hope this comes in handy.  Even if you do not agree with the techniques themselves, I think that the lessons about avoiding pointless time wasting when marking books are valid.



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