Time to Reflect and Improve: Re-thinking Marking – Charlotte Goodchild


Currently, there is lots of work going on around school with regards to improving the critique and feedback that we offer our students – work involving everyone from classroom teachers involved in action research projects, to CTLs and the SLT.

Whilst this is most certainly a work in progress, in the meantime, have a look at some of the articles and videos listed below and perhaps think about how you could apply these ideas to your own teaching practice.

Austin’s Butterfly

Head Guru Teacher

Teacher Toolkit


David Didau

Positive Prep


Sam Naylor, outlines Wilmslow High School’s new intervention strategy, ‘Positive Prep’.

Being prepared is fundamentally important within education and throughout all areas of life. In order to learn effectively, all students must be prepared for the day ahead; have embedded learning habits; targets to work towards and the right frame of mind to reach their full potential. Parents and carers should also be made aware of how they can aid their child’s learning in the best possible way.

Positive Prep is a new support system designed to improve organisational skills and homework completion rates amongst targeted students at WHS. Students referred onto the programme complete a five week cycle of ‘Positive Prep’ where they are guided and supported to complete homework and improve their organisation. Positive Prep also encourages students to:

  • Recognise the importance of being organised and prepared for the school week
  • Manage their time effectively
  • Complete homework accurately and to the required standard
  • Have more self esteem and confidence in completing work
  • Have embedded study habits that they continue to use after the cycle has finished

Positive Prep is aimed at students who genuinely struggle to cope with the workload that a normal school week can bring.  These students may not have access to a computer at home, receive little or no support from parents, or, may be generally forgetful, have a lack of interest in a particular subject or receive Pupil Premium Funding.

Students on the Programme are required to attend breakfast and daily after school homework clubs as well as completing a Positive Prep booklet which teachers are also required to sign and check.

During the Monday breakfast club students set themselves targets to work towards throughout the week. Students also stock up on any equipment to ensure that they organised and are starting the week off in a positive frame of mind.

The Positive Prep booklet is used as a way of monitoring the students’ homework completion and organisation. Students are required to hand their PP booklet to teachers towards the end of each lesson. At the end of the lesson, the teacher will check to see if the student has written their homework down and will then either tick or cross three different boxes based on whether they had the required equipment for the lesson and whether or not they completed their homework to the required standard.

The after school homework clubs are led by members of our Learning Support Team. During this time students are given high quality 1 to 1 help and guidance with homework, revision and any class work which they may need to catch up with.

Whilst the strategy has only been up and running since September, it is hoped that Positive Prep will help to improve attainment levels as well as embedding positive study habits that students can continue to use after the cycle has finished.

Assessing Without Levels


Huw Williams and Fiona Ryan share a summary of their article ‘Assessing Without Levels – National Pilot Case Study’, published in the Autumn edition of Physical Education Matters.

The Education Secretary’s June 2012 announcement that “…the current system of levels and level descriptors – which is confusing for parents and bureaucratic for teachers – will be removed and not replaced” was well received by Wilmslow’s PE staff and, as a result, we chose to pilot assessment without levels from September 2013 with our Year 7 core PE groups.

Although we had a clear and comprehensive core levels based assessment structure in place, staff had become increasingly disillusioned with the process; staff were uncomfortable with assigning levels and sub levels for up to 12 different practical activities each year and then generating an average number at the end of the year. Students knew they were a “5c” but what did that mean? What did they need to do to improve? What were their particular strengths and weaknesses? How were they going to make progress?

We were keen to develop a system that worked for us as a department – one that would give our students meaningful feedback and enable them to identify their strengths and areas for improvement in a language they could understand. We wanted students to be able to tell us that, in order to make progress, they needed to improve – for example – the accuracy of their overhead clears in badminton or the fluency of their sequences in gymnastics. We wanted students to be able to talk in specifics rather than in numbers.

Units of Work were revised during the summer term 2013 and draft recording sheets were drawn up using Excel Spreadsheets. The assessment document focused on 3 areas: Doing, Thinking and Behavioural Change. “Doing” related to essential skills – sports specific techniques for KS3, for example in badminton: grip, clear, serve, net play. “Thinking” focused on understanding and analysing performance in the activity, for example, identifying strengths and areas for improvement or accurate use technical language. “Behavioural Change” focused on attitudes to PE and healthy active lifestyles such as resilience, self management, responsibility and involvement in extra curricular or club sport.

Staff completed an assessment document for each activity and across the course of the year, a student in Year 7 may have a record which involved up to 10 focused assessments. Staff used a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) rating, which indicates whether a student has been able to perform particular skills or apply particular tactics. For example, in terms of “Doing” a student may have Green ratings for their grip and clear in badminton, an amber for their serve and red for their net play. The red rating may indicate that a student simply cannot perform a particular skill or that he/she was absent for lessons when this was taught. This gives clear feedback to the student as to the areas that he/she needs to improve, while also giving vital information to the member of staff taking the group for Year 8 badminton as to the further opportunities that need to be provided.

assessing without levels

Rather than recording a final handwritten level in their planners at the end of a six week block, staff recorded performance in three areas in terms of their doing, thinking and behaviours using a RAG rating. Staff may use the RAG rating to indicate a baseline and then adjust that rating if there has been a clear improvement over the six weeks.

The detail included in the assessment document has huge benefits for staff and students alike. Skimming through your planner to find “5c” next to a student’s name for Rugby in the first term gives you very little to go on come the Year 7 parents’ evening in March, as staff frantically search for some indication of how that student could improve in this area.

The assessment without levels document was extremely useful when giving feedback at parents’ evening. Staff could identify specific areas that students could work on, for example, decision making in a 2 v 1 situation, identifying strengths and weaknesses in performance or accurate use of technical language.  The quality of feedback to Year 7 students and parents has improved considerably since adopting assessment without levels. The final lesson in our Units of Work for all activities is based on House competitions. The structure of these lessons means that staff can speak to individual students and give feedback based on their assessment in that activity. The colour coding and visual representation of the data on staff IPads has helped to engage the students and the nature of the assessment under the headings of Doing, Thinking and Behavioural Change, enables students to clearly identify their strengths and areas for improvement in specific activities and allows them to set targets to develop and progress.

For those people staring with horror at the number of colourful boxes included in the assessment document, fear not. The spreadsheet is set up in such a way that it generates the Doing, Thinking, Behavioural Change and Overall Progress columns automatically. In addition to this the spreadsheet will generate an overview of progress in each of these areas in each of the activities covered by the student during the year.

Following the successful pilot scheme, we introduced assessment without levels across Key Stage 3 in September 2014 and are developing a similar system that can be used at Key Stage 4. Our developments for September 2015 include a recognition of exceptional performance and the development of a report card that will be automatically generated from the spreadsheet data.

The Physics Intervention Programme (PIP)


This week, Ceri George contributes an interesting article that explains the rationale behind the Physics Department’s new intervention programme.

As a teacher of Physics, there are a number of rules and laws that regularly feature in my everyday life: the conservation of energy, Newton’s laws of motion, Einstein’s theory of relativity and – on a more frustrating level – that GCSE Physics can be pretty hard!

In actual fact, the last point is highly debatable; last year 47 WHS students attained an A* or A grade in GCSE Physics. However, I hold my hands up when I say that Physics is a bit of a “marmite” subject: results generally show that you either “get it” or you don’t.

The Physics Intervention Programme (PIP) is out to change that, along with the popular perception that achieving a positive grade in Physics is beyond the average student.

Based on Year 10 GCSE Core Science marks, we have selected 14 students who are currently underperforming in Physics based on their FFT and 3 LoP estimates, often doing worse in this area than in Biology or Chemistry. Coincidentally, 5 of them are PP students, fitting in with the current whole-school drive to enable such students to fulfil their potential and achieve in-line with their peers.

The PIP mainly revolves around a weekly session which is held by Nicola Lennon, an experienced Physics teacher within the department. Each Tuesday morning during registration, she meets the students and for 20 minutes they consolidate the Physics work they are currently doing in class. This might involve revisiting the theory behind some of the more difficult concepts, practising past paper questions, or simply discussing the underpinning ideas and key words in a topic and ironing out any misconceptions.

We have chosen to hold the sessions during morning registration as this is a constructive use of what is often seen as “dead time” by the students. We also felt that the students would be more likely to attend during official school time, as opposed to during their lunch break or after school.

It is hoped that by providing this additional lesson within a small group setting, we will eliminate any gaps in students’ knowledge and understanding, improve their examination technique and develop their confidence. For me, this latter point is key: if students think that they can “get” Physics, they are more open to learning. This means that they are more willing to develop their current knowledge and understanding, are not afraid of new topics and will persevere when they initially find an idea or question challenging. I mean, if you’ve conquered using Ohm’s Law, what have you possibly got to fear about F=ma?!

The big hope is that this new found confidence will then translate to the exam hall, as in my experience, if students walk into an exam confident that they can do well, largely, they will.

Do our students have a growth or fixed mindset?

Here is a NY magazine article on Carol Dweck’s decades of research on the power of praise and feedback.

Her mantra is ‘praise effort, not intelligence’ which is linked to either a FIXED (natural talent) or GROWTH (if I work hard I can improve) mindset .  Here’s a little visual  to give you more of an understanding:

If this idea strikes a chord with you, then check out her book, Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential or her website here

It is a very simple idea that can have a massive effect on student success in the classroom, on the playing field and life in general!  I think these findings should be shared explicitly with all parents & students at the earliest possible opportunity!

So, let’s make it our resolution to start the 2012 academic year with a growth mindset and transfer this mindset onto our students to help us all improve together.