New Maths Marking and Feedback Policy

We have recently updated our marking policy in the maths department. It felt like quite a bold update to our policy: it’s much less prescriptive than before and acknowledges the many ways in which feedback can be given to students.

As a school, we are in transition with our digital tools. We work in a one-to-one school in which students have iPads with a stylus or a laptop/tablet; we are encouraging them all to get a stylus. The main teaching software is now OneNote on an interactive whiteboard.

A lot of our students’ maths work still goes into their exercise books, but a lot is now being done on their personal areas of OneNote.

We discussed our marking and feedback ideas over several department meetings and devised the following new policy. I’m looking forward to the learning walk that will focus on feedback later in the school year.

Maths Department
Marking and Feedback Policy

The purpose of feedback is primarily to help students know and articulate their strengths and areas for improvement in the current topics of study. Teachers should share with students an idea of where their learning is heading. This can be done using learning objectives.

We recognise that good feedback happens in many ways which are chosen by the teacher in relation to the needs of the students and the teacher’s preferences. We agree that teachers can make their own choices and this policy does not require that teachers all give feedback in a certain way.

The maths department will have an annual learning walk focused on feedback in which teachers can share their methods of feedback and student reflection. This will allow leaders to verify good feedback is being given and promote sharing of feedback strategies.

We agree that a minimum frequency for recorded, specific, personal feedback is every three weeks.

Homework and classwork tasks should be marked, whether by teachers or students. Students should reflect on their work and record this in some way.

There are many ways teachers can share feedback with students. These include:
• Student self-marking of work as directed by teachers
• Student peer-marking of work as directed by teachers
• Marking by teachers in exercise books or digitally, can be done in or out of class time
• Verbal feedback, which does not need to be recorded
• Written feedback in OneNote
• Student reflections, written with guidance from teachers; can be in exercise books or digitally
• Small quizzes, online tasks, and exit tickets
• Strength and target sheets used after tests



Which is More Valuable: Getting or Giving Feedback?

Students can get feedback from me, their teacher, when I mark their work or talk to them in class.

Students can give feedback to me when I ask them about their learning.

Which is more valuable for student learning? According to an article I was reading today, getting feedback from students is more powerful than giving students feedback. Cris Tovani argues that when teachers obtain feedback from students they can make changes easily to subsequent lessons, and this leads readily to improvement in the students’ performance. Tovani is a reading teacher, so here are a few ideas from me to help get feedback from students.

Three Minute Feedback

I do love this strategy and it’s the only thing I’ve continued doing since the very first teaching I did at university. (Sometimes I forget to use it, though, for months at a time. Does anyone else have this problem, even with great ideas?!) See here for an example when my IB SL students were preparing for a test; see here for an example when students were learning to expand brackets. Here’s one I prepared for my year 9s for tomorrow; they are revising for a test. Tovani says that after she spots the patterns in her exit tickets, she throws them out – it was freeing to read that.

3 minute feedback revision

Looking for Themes in Book Marking

When I take in a set of books (or tests), I jot notes to myself about commonalities among the students’ work to see on which topics they need help. If it’s just a small group of students who need help with factorising, for example, I might invite them all around one table when the class are working on something.

Quick Quizzes

Short quizzes with only a few questions that can be done at the end of class let me know if a concept from earlier is still secure. For example, I gave a four question trigonometry quiz to my year 10s a few weeks ago (and discovered that I need to refresh their memories about the difference between trigonometry and Pythagoras). I would like to get into the habit of using more mini quizzes.


Giving and Getting Feedback

Each of these examples allow students to give me feedback about their learning but they are also a means of the students getting feedback from me. In the case of the Three Minute Feedback, they have the chance to reflect on their learning and identify what they need to do next. With book marking, I have been challenging myself to only write questions to prompt thinking that will help students improve. In the case of quick quizzes, I provide detailed exemplar solutions afterwards for them to see and analyse. Thus students know where they are now and how to improve.

Which do you find easier in the classroom: giving students feedback or getting it? Tweet me (@mathsfeedback) or comment below.

Reflection Time

Last week we had a professional development session with Andy Hind (@andyhind_es4s) about deep learning. One thing that stuck out to me was the value of reflection time in order to deepen learning.

  1. Reflection time for students.
  2. Reflection time for me.

Students need time to reflect on their learning in order to embed it and connect it to their existing knowledge. One strategy Andy used which I will use in lessons was a small picture of a nutshell that popped up about twenty minutes into a session. Andy said, “Tell your partner everything that has happened so far, in a nutshell.”

He said that students should reflect at four points in a one hour lesson. At the beginning (thinking back to the last lesson), after twenty minutes, after forty minutes, and at the end. I scribbled down this time line.

reflection times

Tomorrow I’m incorporating reflection time into my lessons twice. At the beginning of one of my lessons we are going to recap the last session with the instructions on this slide.

recap last lesson

In another lesson I want to ask students to reflect at the end of the lesson, and I’m using the slide below. It’s a feedback structure I have used since even before I was a school teacher. I learned about it from my colleague Richard Hoshino while I was a lecturer at university.

3 min feedback

The “3 Minute Feedback” questions always follow the same pattern. The first question is related to today’s lesson and allows me to see if students have succeeded with the objective of the lesson. The second question relates to my teaching. The third one is always worded exactly as above and gives students a chance to share anything on their minds. I like to respond to these via Edmodo after the lesson by giving the class an idea of the proportion of responses of each type and by answering the questions.

I need reflection time in order to become a better teacher. I used to blog more regularly and this was a good method of reflection for me. But Andy also suggested a private reflection journal and I’ve started one this week. I set an alarm for half an hour before I want to go home. I use 15 minutes for writing reflection and 15 minutes for tidying up my desk. I haven’t managed to do it every day this week, but I’m pleased that I have done it three out of the last six workdays. I’m going to either write in my journal or on this blog during my afternoon reflection times this year.

How do you include student reflection into your lessons?