I like my Facebook stamp, but it's only real impact is a smile!
It's come to that time of year; the time when I train up my A2 students in peer marking... I do a lot of peer marking with all my classes, but until last year, it was my biggest challenge with 6th formers. How do you do something meaningful with a tough to comprehend mark scheme? How can I ensure marking with impact takes place? What kind of marking has the most impact?
Last year I posted a #TeachTweet video on how I started doing it last year:
This gives an overview of what I started to do. Please excuse the video quality and my slightly dull presentation! I've got better at making videos since then...
I realised that at Key Stage 3, criteria can be simplified to enable structured feedback. This doesn't necessarily give an accurate level, but generally speaking it can be a meaningful exercise and easy to help students go beyond, "I like your work".
At Key Stage 4, I work hard at drilling exam technique. The EdExcel GCSE allows for students who have mastered the formulae of questions to use 'S' and 'D' for simple and developed points, and along with the mark scheme accurately mark questions. Tim Shelton, after seeing my video, tried it out with his GCSE class, see <here>.
However Key Stage 5 was the one that escaped me. I wanted to give students an opportunity to master something of the mark scheme so they didn't go back to Y7s... "I like your work!".
By A2, students are able to write something that constitutes a reasonable essay. However, moving to the next level can often be a challenge. What is the area that lets them down? What precise feedback can be given to enable them to work at improving for next time?
The grid was key to me. To break down the criteria into a table form that students could begin by ticking off. This illustrated what would be a limiting factor on their progression and that, for example, not using enough technical vocabulary, could really limit their final mark. This was hard to do, and I'm not sure it is perfect even now. It did give a clear area to base a target around for next time, i.e. structure, knowledge.
I uploaded copies of the grid so you can see what I am talking about; they are uploaded at TES <here>.
As you can see from the video, last year by March, my A2 class were getting the marks very accurate (I think I said 'spot on' about 48 times in the video). This was through perseverance and getting them to do it for every essay they did. They didn't like it at first, but I noticed over the time they were putting better and better feedback, as well as accurately indicating which level the response fell into.
I still marked the essays and added further comments where necessary. I did ask them one day, which comments did they take the most notice of; they all agreed that it was their friends! Yet they only really looked at my mark and not their peers.
To begin this process with Y13 this year, I have produced some essays from last years' Y13. I told them to get in full mindset of the teacher... some of them were cruel! The essays were literally covered in corrections and improvements.
We then had a frank discussion about whether or not we felt we could do this with one another. There was a slight hesitation; it's far easier to do when they are not your friends in the room. However a few started saying that actually it was all for the best interests of the class and they would try to be as thorough with one another. We shall see.
I am going to try and begin this process with Y12 too. The step from GCSE to AS is huge in RS and a real focus of me this year is working on this transition, especially for the less able. Their first essay is a draft and I will be getting them to redraft before handing in (based on this <this> blog post). I will introduce a grid for their second essay and we will work from there.
So to return to the original question (like any good philosophy essay!), I have found that by using structured collaborative marking I have had a significant impact on the quality of my students essays. They really take on board the comments of their peers, and by using this structured method, the comments can be meaningful and inform targets. I can then add to these if necessary and give a final grade which reflects their progress.
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