MFL Grade descriptors by Susie Riddell

For the excellent Teach meet in November, I spoke about the ways MFL have adapted marking to the new grade system, particularly when marking written and spoken work.

Feedback sheets are made up of the criteria for content on one side, grammar on the other with the grades in the middle. On the feedback sheets, we highlight in green the content and grammar included, making the reasoning behind the grade awarded clear to the student and anyone that is looking at the work.

It also allows us to highlight in pink anything that could have been added, or that wasn’t accurate, so the student can focus on those aspects to upgrade their work.


We have also produced feedback sheets for peer assessment, which include specific examples of the language features needed to achieve each grade.  In this way, students simply have to locate the examples in the piece of writing/speaking and highlight them in green if found.


Kemp’s Musings- Part 3

For the inspiring Teach Meet he organised, Stu Kemp talked about solutions to a range of issues we face daily. Here are some of his ruminations:

Bottom set year 9:

Entrance policy – They cross the ‘learning threshold’ of my lab.

They have 60 seconds to get their folders out. 

Sit down.

Open their book.

Get on with connect/create a summary of last lesson.

All in silence, they must be silent!

Exit policy – They must be sitting down, they must be silent.

I will not talk until all rulers, pens, etc. are away.

Movement in class – Do it like bacteria – quietly. Chairs cannot be scraped. Must be lifted.

Work hard on the relationships

Be assertive, authoritative and inspire confidence in your expertise. However, if students don’t connect with your human qualities- let them know.

‘I work for you. You work for yourself.’


Marking and feedback:

Photocopy brilliant work with your feedback on it.

screenshot-2016-12-14-at-20-42-17Hand it out; show the kids what great work looks like.

Ask the kids to make improvements based on what they know is great work.

When they improve their work, make sure they add the word ‘improvements’.

Get the pens out and live mark their work. 
When you are live marking they must be silent. 

DIRT time is important:


screenshot-2016-12-14-at-20-53-01Concept check:

When you introduce a new concept, check at least 3 times with three different students. Saves constant micro-
teaching and repetition.

Be relentless:


Infinite extension:

Every subject has concepts that take many steps to grasp, or skills that take hours to hone. Instead of always providing a different extension activity, why not offer an extension project- something for the students to work away at over the term or the year?

Finished? No. Never.


And finally, remind your students (and yourself, at times):


Planning for Effective Feedback – Darren Mead

The first step in making feedback effective is to realise that it’s a two way street. Teachers, no matter how good they are, do not make learning happen. Equally, the most talented student won’t learn as much as they might without the instruction and guidance a teacher provides. Hattie and Timperley see feedback as a ‘consequence of performance’, but temper this definition with an important nuance: that feedback has its biggest effect ‘when addressing a faulty interpretation, not a total lack of understanding’. As teachers we therefore must understand what the students know before we can give useful guidance. Therefore a  key role for a teacher is to ‘elicit evidence to promote discussion about learning’.

There is no simple answer to planning great feedback that will allow your students to thrive. It is as complex as they are. What I am about to outline is far from a complete set of ideas, but the following list may help you to focus on what you see as important for the lesson you are currently planning. The most important step is to develop a culture in which feedback is valued, wanted and well received. To do this we can consider:

  • The routines, systems and procedures you use to ensure that ‘threat’ is reduced and feedback will not be interpreted as a personal affront
  • The ways you can help students understand that feedback is part of the learning process
  • The self and peer assessment strategies to develop student error detection and self-regulation
  • How to value honest student responses so that errors are readily offered

What follows are some suggested planning questions and thought to ensure we get the right information from the students and then to consider how to provide the best feedback for student learning.

Six steps to planning receiving feedback from students.

Step 1 – Remind yourself of the long and short term learning intentions:

What was important last lesson?

What is important in this lesson?

What will be important next lesson?

What will be important at the end of the academic year?

Is this a threshold concept?

Step 2 – Where is the best place to focus the assessment?

Are you working on a long-term outcome that brings together many ideas and involves more complex thinking?

Are you working on short-term outcomes so repeating the information is key to longer-term learning?

What are the misconceptions, known difficulties and common errors associated with this concept or this task?

Step 3 – What exactly are you looking for?

How important is the idea? Is it a threshold concept? A known concept? A long term learning intention?

How might student knowledge change over time or over the teaching sequence?

How will you know if the students are getting to grips with this idea? How might this change as they become more confident or understand it better?

Are you looking to see if they understand the idea, if they know the idea or that they can apply the idea?

What might an exemplar response look or sound like?

Step 4 – Constructively align tasks and assessments:

Are you interested in the students developing or constructing meaning of the idea? Or assessing if the students  have learned?

Is there any chance for ‘means end’ thinking or guesswork? Can they complete the task without thinking about the content?

Step 5 – Design assessments that you can trust:

Have I assessed the big idea more than once?

How big is the decision I will make based upon this information?

How much trust is necessary?

Do I trust that they know it? Or have they just worked it out from the clues in the assessment?

Step 6 – Make the information manageable:

When do I need this information? Can it wait for in between lessons to be processed and used?

Will sampling the class suffice?

Does having a valid assessment matter at this point in time?

How does the gathering of information fit with the flow of planned activities/ learning or the lesson?

Can a computer do the compilation of the evidence for me?

Eight steps to planning for giving feedback

Step 1 – Establishing the purpose of the feedback:

  • Are students developing an understanding? Applying or building on knowledge? Producing work where quality matters? (Are domain skills involved)?
  • Is there an opportunity to develop their self-regulation?
  • Who or what is the feedback for? The student? To fulfil a policy? For observers?

Step 2 – Consider the form of feedback (or is Instruction needed?

  • Do students know enough for the feedback to be helpful?
  • Are the tasks constructively aligned enough for task level feedback to be helpful?
  • Are answer sheets, guide sheets or rubrics needed?
  • Will marking codes be a useful time saver?

Step 3 – Establish a context for feedback:

  • How does the teaching sequence support the current learning?
  • What prior knowledge do they need to be able to act on the feedback given?
  • Are the learning intentions shared, agreed or owned by the students?
  • How can you make the goals clear to the students?
  • Is exemplar work used to set the direction and quality of the student work?
  • Is a rubric established early in the sequence of producing the work?
  • Is there a way of making the feedback something that is sought by the students rather than offered by the teacher?

Step 4 – Consider the timing of the feedback:

  • Is the potential feedback needed for this task or concept best if provided immediately during the activity, or might some delay be beneficial?
  • Is the task best defined as a construct, demonstrate or assessment task?
  • How would testing and tests be structured in this topic to aid long term retention?

Step 5 – Establish the correctness, or not, of the student learning.

  • What are the signs, evidence and clues that this piece of work is on the right track?
  • Is there a hinge point opportunity?
  • Is the hinge point activity robust enough to exposure misunderstandings and gaps in understanding?

Step 6 – Consider how the feedback will induce thinking:

  • How does the feedback narrow down the range of potential answers or solutions?
  • Does the feedback avoid leading the student to use a means end or a ‘trial and error’ approach?
  • What are the purposes of your planned questions? Are they to assess, to induce thinking or a convoluted form of social control?
  • Is there an opportunity for students to ask high quality questions?

Step 7 – Consider how the feedback develops self-regulation:

  • Is student knowledge secure enough to add potentially extraneous cognitive load?
  • What is the balance between securing knowledge and developing self-regulation?
  • Is there a choice of meaningful tasks to follow formative assessment?

Step 8 – Set targets:

  • What might you have to re-teach? How will you represent the ideas differently?
  • What are the long-term goals for students with this concept?
  • Is there any opportunity for ‘feed-forward’ between tasks?
  • Do some targets take precedence over other? Or is some content currently more important than other content?
  • Who is the target for: You? The whole or part of the class? Individuals?

Assessment for Learning: The Cramlington Teaching and Learning Model

– This issue we are looking at Assessment for Learning

The quote below sums up nicely how a positive learning environment should challenge and encourage young people to move forward in their learning. The following article contains many useful strategies and ideas that have direct application in all classrooms.

“There is no failure, only feedback”

An Assessment for Learning classroom Looks like…

1. Its part of every lesson, in every day for every student

2. All students’ achievements recognised.

3. Learning outcomes visible throughout the lesson.

Sounds like…

1. Students describing how they can improve.

2. Students describing how they learn.

3. All students giving and using feedback.

Feels like…

1. Calm, can reflect on their successes

2. Safe, students take risks in their learning, as feedback is constructive

3. Motivating, students look to make their own improvements

A Safe Environment

Develop a “No put down zone” in your classroom. Display a sign like this one on the door of the classroom. It is a simple statement to the students that they are in an environment where they are free to learn, where no one will laugh or make fun of what they say, do or the questions that they ask. In this environment students will be more likely to ask questions and seek out help and guidance. They will also feel more comfortable taking risks in their learning, knowing that if they make a mistake no one will make fun of them. Class teachers will endeavour to set up consistently apply this rule making the message clear that students should support each other in their learning.

No Hands Up Policy

The idea behind a no hands up policy is to ensure all students are involved, and expect to be involved, in learning. When the teacher asks questions the same students will often put their hands up to answer. It is easier for the teacher to accept these offered responses, as the lesson can proceed quickly forward. It is also easy for the other students who did not raise their hand because they know that they are unlikely to be asked to contribute.

They can ‘buy out’ of the learning process. Teachers must know their students’ names for this strategy to work, of course. Using a random name selector can add a dimension of anticipation here. We can use ICT to display names at random on the whiteboard, or simply pick names out of a hat! The idea is to keep challenge high, whilst keeping the stress low. If students perceive too much stress they will stop participating and thinking. To avoid this a range of getout clauses will help your students manage high challenge but with low stress:

1) Training students to respond “I do not know yet, please come back to me later” when stuck with a question is a good starting point. This buys the student some more time to think, look up answers and consult with friends.

2) Sell the idea that we learn by our mistakes so that offering their ideas is better than not. Students’ misconceptions can be great start points to lessons.

3) Give the students some educative guessing strategies, and model these regularly.

4) Employ an “Ask the Audience” device, similar to the TV quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The student with the impetus to answer opens up the question to the class who offer suggestions. The student still has to choose the response and therefore maintains ownership of this learning.

Why Feedback is Important

One easy way of increasing the value students add to feedback is to ask students for their thoughts. Record this conversation on flipchart paper so that it can be displayed and referred to throughout the year. The example below contains genuine comments from year 9 students.

Success Criteria

The agreeing of learning outcomes should be done at the beginning of most sessions. Some sessions, especially thinking skill lessons, are often better debriefed at the end so that the students reflect more on what they have learned.

Outcomes should reveal to your students the purpose of the lesson, so that they know what they know what they will be able to do by the end of the lesson rather than just today we are learning about “energy”, Anderson’s revision of Bloom’s taxonomy is useful here, as the words are active:

• Apply your knowledge of alkanes and alkenes to deduce difference between them

• Predict a heating curve for water

• These are very explicit examples of what success will look like, thereby making it measurable for teachers and students alike.

Increasing Student Engagement

As well as using positive language when selling the learning outcomes to students, raise interest and motivation by capturing their imagination and emotions. If students are to be really engaged in learning they must be able to see the point of it. Why should they learn about it? We must set the learning in context.

This can be done several ways such as WILF (What I’m Looking For) and TIB (This Is Because). The teacher outline what is to be learned and then gives reasons why this learning is important.

Although this is useful it is often more powerful to encourage students to create these links themselves. Once the lesson objectives have been shared, ask the students why it is important to learn about this. Once you get past the “I might get asked about it in an exam sir!” response, other questions can be asked to help students to make connections.

“What jobs or professions would find this information useful?”

“How does this connect with what you already know?”

“What will you be able to explain in your world with this knowledge?”

For example, a science lesson on heat transfer was linked to chefs, firemen and architects. By doing this the students saw their learning having real life applications.

Another way of involving students in this process is to ask them what they would like to find out about a topic. Students benefit from having a stimulus, such as books or magazine articles, while thinking about what they would like to know. It is vital that a response is taken from every student and that their ideas are recorded and displayed. This adds value to the students’ input, as well as increasing ownership of the learning.

This is ideally used at the beginning of a module so that a range of questions can be gathered and gives the teacher the chance to use these suggestions to plan lessons around. This gives students further ownership of their lessons, and as a result, should be more motivated.

Value Getting Stuck

“How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of moving forward.” – Neils Bohr

Change the culture of finding tasks difficult. Explain to your students that no one ever climbed on bike and rode off into the sunset. Everybody falls off a few times, so why should learning in school be any different? Learning should be exciting and when they get stuck they are about to learn something new. That is why they cannot do it at the moment. Share strategies with students to help them solve problems when they encounter them .

Increasing Challenge in Lesson Outcomes

Use Anderson’s revised taxonomy to plan lesson outcomes that are challenging for your students.

Consider the thinking that would be required by these two contrasting outcomes.

1.Draw a cooling curve for water.

2.Predict cooling curves for different materials

The first one requires students to translate numerical information into a graphical form. The student is translating and therefore showing “comprehension”. Where as the second requires the student to identify the important pattern in previous graphs, adapt it to create a new graph and speculate on the outcome of an experiment. In the second one the student is “synthesising” information.

The Thinking spiders included below and are a good start point to planning lessons and questions. See Darren, Julie or Fergus to get hold of a set of spiders or to discuss the many ways in which they can be used.

Assessment Tools

These help students (and teachers!) focus on the success criteria of a piece of work. They help agree what a high quality piece of work will look like. Over time the following steps can develop students from teacher dependant to independent. These steps also increase the learners’ capacity for self-assessment.

Some examples of assessment tools.

1. The checklist. The first assessment tools you use may just be a simple tick exercise to acknowledge that criteria have been met. The next step will allow space for comment or guidance.

Teacher assessment tool for homework Example ‘Why is the Thermos (Vacuum) Flask the greatest invention of all time?”

2. Structure space to invite comments – simple graphic organisers. Example – Students are asked for two positives and one improvement. Positive can-do language will encourage valuable contributions.

Assessment tools are great way to start training students to give each other feedback, as they provide a structure for the advice. This is especially powerful if the students have an input into the criteria. Next time your students make posters, agree a list of five success criteria that a good poster should have, and then use this to feedback their successes.

Exchanging Feedback

When students have assessed the work of others, make them sit face to face to give their feedback. To do this the emotional environment in the classroom must feel safe. The feedback process is useful for both parties; as the person must really scrutinize the others work against the success criteria. This process helps them reflect on their own work. The student receiving the feedback will benefit from someone providing an alternative view on his or her understanding.

1. Beware – students find giving objective feedback very difficult, and tend to avoid doing so, preferring just to say positive things. To avoid this establish the following ground rules:

2. The group / person receiving the feedback must sit in silence and only speak if they are asked a direct question. This allows them to focus on the feedback, and makes it safer for the people giving feedback.

3. The person / group giving the feedback must feedback only against he agreed criteria. This helps to keep the feedback fair and open.

4. The feedback must include successes and advice on how to improve.

5. The feedback must be finished by saying I / we have finished our feedback. Thereby drawing a line under the feedback.

6. The person/group must respond “Thank you for your feedback” This shows that the effort made is appreciate.

7. No further discussion must take place after the feedback is over. To help with this it is advantageous to have groups feeding back to different groups that they received feedback from.

Teacher Marking

Teachers spend hours marking students work, but, how effective is it in helping students learn? To make the most of this effort it is most useful just to provide them with comments only. Research shows that when students receive a grade along as well the impact of the written comment is reduced.

Good written feedback

1. Informs the students if they are on the right track.

2. Encourages improvement

3. Provides guidance on how to improve

Steps to take

1. Plan key pieces of work into schemes of work that you will mark in detail. Do not aim to mark everything in a student’s book.

2. Use comment only marking. 3a. Make sure praise is specific, such as “You have listed some reasons behind global warning. I particularly liked the layout of your news article. Well done.” 3b. Only comment on agreed success criteria

3. Plan lesson time for students to respond to your feedback.

4. Plan opportunities for students to go back to the targets you set.

5. Plan self and peer assessment into schemes of work

Comment only marking strategies

Strategy 1 – Provide a hint.

This will help your students think through the problem whilst keeping ownership of learning. For example – Giving the first letter of the answer, or starting a sentence, or drawing their attention to where they have useful information in their book or worksheet.

Strategy 2 – Rephrasing the question can help students think about a problem in a different way.

Questions can lead students to the answer.

Strategy 3 – Provide a structure for your students to work in, such as sentences with gaps in so that students have to fill in key learning points. This can really help weaker students to focus on the subject.

“Some other ways to keep food fresh are r________ (make it cool), p________(heating to kill microbes), and i__________ (using gamma rays to kill microbes)”

Strategy 4 – Provide model answers.

Highlight them in the student’s work. Refer to them when work slips below the required standard. Use them as a targets for students to match structure and quality.

Strategy 5 – Colour coding student’s work

Using one colour, say green to highlight where the student has met the leaning outcome of a lesson. Where a learning outcome has not been met highlight using a different colour say blue. This could be used in connection with a praise sandwich – two pieces of positive feedback bread to one filling improvement.

Strategy 6 – Guidance can develop a students understanding.

Specific tasks should be quick to complete so that the student can see the improvement. For example, ‘A good explanation – insert these key words in to your answer: antagonistic, fulcrum”

Wait Time

During question and answer session the effective use of wait time can help students reflect more on their understanding. Teachers often answer their own questions, when a student appears stuck, often the time waited for a response is only around one second. So, this technique simply aims to increase the time to about 4 seconds. At first the silence of four seconds will feel uncomfortable, but once the students start thinking and responding with thoughtful answers it will seem worthwhile. It should be used directly after a question has been asked to allow the students time to think through possible responses.

When a response has been pause again. This sends a strong message to them that further elaboration of their ideas is required. Any response given by the teacher at this point may stop the student in their tracks. A smile would convey that a correct answer is being given, although it may not yet be complete. A furrowed brow may indicate that a incorrect answer is being given. Feedback can be this simple.

When listening to responses an open body posture and impassive facial expression will help the students complete their thinking. The effective use of wait time is an integral strategy in the assessment for learning classroom.

• It increases student motivation, shown by more student contributions and questions.

• It helps build confidence prompting students to be more speculative.

• They will test their ideas, as they know they are being supported

• It develops students’ ability to self-assess their answers. These are likely to become longer of better quality.

Celebrate Progress

The celebration of progress is also a big motivator for students. Rather than the familiar rank order of ability, this display can be motivating for all students, regardless of ability. The list is ranked in order of the degree to which students had beaten their own personal target. At the top the students had beaten their targets by more than those at the bottom. It is not a rank of ability. Watch out for this list grows each time it is used, and more students achieve and move beyond their targets. Certificates are awarded on the basis of how much they beat their target by. Gold by more than 15% Silver more than 5% and Bronze for achieving their target score. Clearly, those students who are very high achievers have a real challenge ahead of them to appear on this progress chart.

Adapted from TEEP

Cramlington Teaching & Learning Model (Issue 8, January 2011)

– Apply to Demonstrate

In the fifth stage of the Cramlington cycle, students have the opportunity to show that they really do understand what they have been learning by applying it. We must design activities in which students apply their new understanding within a different or unfamiliar context. Certainly this should be about more than simply repeating back information – knowledge is the lowest rung on the ladder in Bloom’s Taxonomy. The opportunities here are vast and varied.

“If you really understand it you can explain it to your grandmother” – Albert Einstein

Students may find themselves simply answering an exam question, or an online quiz, but they might just as well find themselves preparing questions for others, preaching a sermon, recording a podcast or presenting a TV show. The demonstration of a students’ learning can be achieved in many ways: visually, kinaesthetically and orally, and individually, in groups or as a whole class.

The role of the teacher in this stage of the lesson is to provide these opportunities. We should prompt, check for understanding and be a guide or coach for students. We should encourage thinking and interaction through carefully crafted questioning, and the activity must be designed so that it allows students to achieve the previously agreed learning outcomes.

“…like me with my lump…Perhaps he’d actually worked out how he would do it…identified the ventilator grille, tested its strength…and kept a lead ready in the drawer… In theory I was prepared to do it myself, but fortunately I wasn’t put to the test. In a way I almost feel as if he died instead of me…No that’s silly, delete that…And yet if I were superstitious… there was a strange symmetry about yesterday evening…”   – David Lodge in Thinks (published by Penguin)

The above is an attempt to record a stream of consciousness, to write down the thoughts that pass through somebody’s brain at a given instant. As teachers, we are reasonably skilled at processing these random thoughts in to logically stepped sentences, though, when word-processing we will frequently go back over what we have written to amend it.

This linear process of presenting information has its place in schools at all levels, and it is necessarily important in preparing our students for written exams. But many of our students struggle with the written word, and when asked to apply and demonstrate their understanding in this way, they will labour to give quality responses. We must provide choices, text being just one of them.

“Ohhhh, now I get!” It is a great feeling when that Eureka moment of discovery and understanding occurs in our students. Often we strive to explain things in many different ways to get students of all preferred styles of learning to understand specific concepts.

Using the Cramlington cycle, opportunities are built in to every learning experience to allow students to show they really do ‘get it’. If they do, then explaining why, to their teacher, their peers, or the wider community really helps to embed understanding. The fourth and fifth stages of the Cramlington cycle are often confused and it worth taking a moment to see how they are distinct.

Imagine a horse and cart. How we fill the cart is of supreme importance. If we load the cart too quickly and without thinking of a stable base and sensible structure, the contents are likely to be shed. The Activity (4th stage) time is vital to students so that they can organise information into their ‘carts’ in their own way. If the cart moves off too quickly learning may be lost. Before saddling up and riding into the Demonstrate Understanding section of a lesson, students must make their understanding on the cart secure.

The two stages will, however, often go hand in hand, and sometimes form mini loops within a whole cycle. Consider the Artist’s Easel activity. Students have to read and understand text in order to ‘translate’ it into images. In the Activity section of the lesson the teacher will spend time circulating amongst students helping them to make meaning from information. Students will probably find themselves talking to each other during this type of activity, getting ideas and sharing understanding.

What they have produced can be used in the Demonstrate Understanding phase. Questioning is key here. The type of question asked will determine the quality of the understanding being assessed. At the lowest level asking ‘what do your pictures mean?’ will prompt regurgitation of the information you provided them in the first place.

To gain a better insight into the students’ understanding they must be asked to use the information they have translated to answer better questions. ‘You have drawn this……. what would happen if……, how would this affect …….if we changed this what would happen to…… could this be made much larger? The latter are questions that require students to apply their understanding. The information students provide at this point will directly inform the planning of the next learning cycle.

“ Mistakes are like scraps of fertiliser scattered through our lives – they encourage us to grow and sprout new leaves ”- Mariella Frostrup

A good example from food technology involves students constructing & applying understanding in different lessons (remember the Cramlington framework is a planning tool that must be applied flexibly). In the first lesson students make scones using different recipes and methods. More liquid or a lower cooking temperature perhaps. They then analyse these scones for appearance, texture, smell and taste. This process helps them to understand the different effects different cooking factors will have. In the next lesson students apply this knowledge to design their own scones.

This example clearly illustrates the difference between the two parts of the CLV learning cycle. Firstly there is an opportunity to explore and develop new understanding and then a chance to apply this in a different situation. We are not regurgitating information, but applying understanding to create a real and tasty outcome!

Referring back to Dale’s cone of experience, see opposite [below], tells us that the most effective learning takes place when students are active and when they have opportunities to teach each other. But there are many ways of getting students to apply what they have learned. Students can effectively employ ICT in this stage of the cycle. Young people invariably have a greater aptitude for using ICT than many of their teachers, and it is unreasonable to restrict them to demonstrating understanding through mediums which we, as teachers, are familiar with.

Many students have advanced skills when it comes to using, for example, PowerPoint, Moviemaker, Publisher and Photoshop. And if they have not we should encourage students to explore digital  media when it comes to presenting their learning. We must therefore become skilled in these applications ourselves. The key is to vary activities constantly, to develop new skills and keep lessons fresh and appealing to all learners.

Whether students have answered an exam question, been in a role-play or have presented to the rest of the class they should receive feedback. We should reflect on the reason for feedback, though, to ensure it is as effective as possible. If we are to spend our time and energies responding to students we want to be sure that our efforts are worthwhile.

The role of feedback is to move people forward in their understanding. It should comment on how they have done, often against previously agreed criteria, and offer strategies that compel students to progress further in their learning. Even if students have met all criteria to a very high level, we can still provide feedback in the form of a question or task that really stretches their understanding.

“ Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t – you’re probably right ”

Having the sentiment ‘there is no failure, only feedback’ as a central classroom tenet is a great way to engender a positive, enquiring, safe and low stress ethos.

A safe and encouraging environment is particularly important if we are to develop peer- and self-assessment in our classrooms. Students should be actively involved in the feedback process. It is vital that they are active in all aspects of their learning and appreciate the next steps required to move forward. They must know how, as well as what, to improve. The Demonstrating Understanding section can be a real motivator when students can see that progress has been made.

End of Topic Test

A classic and constant tool used to enable students to show what they know is the end of topic test. These bastions of assessment will be with us for a long time to come, but the timing of them should be flexible and come anywhere but at the end of a period of learning. More often than not tests are administered in the last lesson of a series.

The teacher takes them home and marks them, which can take a little while, and by the time students receive the feedback they are well into another topic. In some subjects classes may rotate amongst teachers, in which case it is even less likely that students will engage at all with any helpful comments that have been provided.

The major assessment should come before the end of a topic. Then there will be time to explore misunderstandings, set more stimulating extension challenges, and redirect time and resources to different students’ needs appropriately.

Adapted From TEEP

Metacognition essential to assessment (Issue 8, January 2011)

 – Given encouragement, structure and a little time, students are pretty good at identifying how to move theselves forward

When I started marking the end of module mock exam, it was clear that the group as a whole had underperformed. This was for a variety of reasons – lack of revision, misconceptions, misreading the questions and failing to make use of information provided were the most common. I wanted to use this as an opportunity for students to identify the reasons for underperformance and begin to address them.

I have always found ‘going over’ the exam paper, however, to be a very unsatisfactory exercise and wanted to make the task more productive. So I structured the lesson after the exam carefully to facilitate this.

For bell work students completed a graphic organiser so that they knew, not only knew which topics they had underperformed on, but also the reasons for underperformance. Next, they completed a concept map, starting with the concepts they had found most problematic. This ensured personalisation of the task and increased the relevance of the lesson to each child.

Following this, they had to pair / share with someone who was working on the same aspects to find additional, information and try to provide feedback to the other person.

Finally, the students were given a set of topic-specific, grade-related criteria and a task that related to the concept map. They were asked to carry out this task to the standard of their MQT initially, then their UQT when they had satisfied those criteria.

The lesson review was to answer the following questions, relating to the mock exam paper:

• Are you aware of why you did badly?

• Can you improve on your answer?

• What advice would you give yourself before the next end of module test?

The answers had to be emailed to me after the lesson, to encourage the students to reflect on their responses. This structure allowed the students to identify and address specific reasons for underperformance and led to a genuinely personalised learning experience for all in the group.

The reviews were thoughtful and showed that most had spent some time considering how their understanding had developed [see example resposnses below, Ed.].

Finally, the graded task was performed at a far higher level than the test – although this might have been expected of a different mode of assessment, the students were confident that their performance in the real module test would be greatly improved as a result of the exercise –

I’ll let you know…

Ian Nelson