Designing a Feedback (not Marking) Policy

The World Is Maths

I wrote in this post about how many examples of poor feedback and ridiculous marking I have come across in recent years, much of which is still going on now.  Examples of ridiculous and pointless marking include tick-and-flick, “dialogic” or “triple” marking, anything that makes more work for teachers than students, and anything that provides feedback far too long after the original work was completed (we all know how short our students’ memories are!)

I also mentioned how we are trying to find a better way in our maths department, and the exit ticket forms the basis of this.

After discussions with SLT I’ve designed a new Feedback Policy for the department (note, not a Marking Policy).  As with everything I do, it’s a work in progress and I want to get things right.  When thinking about feedback I have three overarching aims:

  1. Feedback must help students to improve.
  2. Feedback must…

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The Ideal Assessment Tracking Regime?


In various blog posts and twitter exchanges I have critiqued several widely used approaches to assessment tracking and reporting.   Reasons for my critique include the following:

  • Forcing teachers across very different disciplines to morph their organic, authentic subject specific assessments – including wide-ranging quality and difficulty models – into a common grading system at an excessive number of times determined by the needs of the system, not the teachers.
  • Using measures and scales that give a false impression of being reliable, valid, secure, absolute measures of standards or progress but are actually subjective, arbitrary or even totally spurious.
  • Basing ideas of attainment and progress on an imagined ladder of absolute standards when, usually, all that’s being measured are bell-curve positions within a cohort. This includes the widely inappropriate use of GCSE grades as milestone markers in a ladder 5 to 6 to 7 etc.
  • Projecting from small-scale teacher devised assessments…

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The Big Picture


One day, as an adult I was listening to the radio and a piece of classical music came on that I somehow recognised. I knew how it went and unexpectedly realised how.

When I was a child, I used to have flute lessons. I was fairly rubbish. Every week at my lesson we’d go through the same pieces of music. I played the notes as I could and tried to play each if them for the right amount of time. However I didn’t have any idea what those notes were doing all together. Once or twice my teacher would play it for me but not enough to give me a sense of what the whole piece was about.

This made me wonder, why hadn’t she played the whole thing to me? Why didn’t she let me hear how my flute part fitted in? How the notes could’ve been interpreted into…

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Using knowledge organisers to improve retrieval practice

Class Teaching

At our school, all subject departments are in the process of creating knowledge organisers to support each unit of work. For the uninitiated, a knowledge organiser is a simple tool that provides clarity for both teachers and students. A successful knowledge organiser summarises and condenses all the most vital, useful and powerful knowledge on a single A4 page. We do not have a standard knowledge organiser template; each department designs them in a way that suits the bespoke needs of the subject discipline. For example, here is the knowledge organiser the English department have designed to teach John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to Year 9:


Knowledge organisers are all the rage at the moment. However, if they are going to help support learning and retention, departments and teachers must be very clear about their purpose and how to use them effectively. Used well, a knowledge organiser can support students…

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Star Wars Posters #mtbos #msmathchat


Instead of writing a syllabus or creating assessments or working on lessons plans, I have procrastinated and scoured some images from the web to make these.

I have uploaded .png’s of these into this folder for downloading.  The 8 math practices and SBG files were made to blow up to 18×24 (although the 8 math icons will be a little pixelated.) The Force and Darkside posters are pixelated when blown up that large, but will still look good!

8 math practices-smGrowth_Mindset_Posterdarksidesbg-small

SBG Poster-plain-sm

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Homework: What does the Hattie research actually say?


The Highly Influential Work by John Hattie

This is an excellent book.  It is an attempt to distil the key messages from the vast array of studies that have been undertaken across the world into all the different factors that lead to educational achievement.  As you would hope and expect, the book contains details of the statistical methodology underpinning a meta-analysis and the whole notion of ‘effect size’ that drives the thinking in the book.  There is a discussion about what is measurable and how effect size can be interpreted in different ways. The key outcomes are interesting, suggesting a number of key factors that are likely to make the greatest impact in classrooms and more widely in the lives of learners.

My main interest here is to explore what Hattie says about homework.  This stems from a difficulty I have when I hear or read, fairly often, that ‘research…

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The State of Being Stuck

Math with Bad Drawings

Last year, I got the high school math teacher’s version of a wish on a magic lamp: a chance to ask a question of the world’s most famous mathematician.


Andrew Wiles gained his fame by solving a nearly 400-year-old problem: Fermat’s Last Theorem. The same puzzle had captivated Wiles as a child and inspired him to pursue mathematics. His solution touched off a mathematical craze in a culture where “mathematical craze” is an oxymoron. Wiles found himself the subject of books, radio programs, TV documentaries—the biggest mathematical celebrity of the last half-century.

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The Timeless Wisdom of Sitting in Rows


Some of the strangest debates or memes about education that pop up now and then are about the idea of students sitting in rows.  You don’t have to look too far to find people aligning this commonplace desk configuration along the axis of evil.  Only recently I came across a tweet that mentioned children sitting in rows in a list of features of modern schooling that included compliant, submissive…. It’s just the weirdest thing.  But it’s not uncommon. Sitting rows = factory schooling, 19th C, Gradgrindian, ‘Victorian’ – all intended as pejoratives.

But look:

Here’s the thing: sitting is rows is great because YOU CAN SEE EVERYONE’S FACE AT THE SAME TIME.  The reason classrooms are very often configured in this way is not because schools are old fashioned. It is because this very sensible, very human set-up has stood the test of time.  And it always will.

Human?  Of…

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