My first Blog!

So I’ve been meaning to write a blog about my musings for quite a while but never really had that much to say! This weekend I attended #MathsConf18 hosted by the ever knowledgeable Mark McCourt.

For those of you who haven’t attended (you’re missing out!) or those of you who don’t know what MathsConf is (where have you been hiding?!) it’s a regular event put on by the aforementioned Mark & La Salle Education. At the conferences there are many sessions delivered by maths teachers who are keen to share best practice with & get to know other maths teachers from across the country & settings.

MathsConf18 is the fourth (or is it the fifth?) one that I have attended. I have always left with either a lot of books (there are lots of stalls selling really great material as well as stalls representing the major examination boards), loads of inspiration, new techniques to try, food for thought and, most importantly, new friends.

There are six sessions throughout the day that you can attend (which you select in advance), I was very kindly asked if I could write a quick blog to describe the sessions I attended this time around. So (as the old saying goes) Here goes nothing:

1. Feedback NOT Marking (Cat Ashby)

So the first thing to mention here is that the school I work in has a marking policy that places the onus on the students & not on the teachers, the students mark their own work in class with purple pen & we give them verbal guidance as to what they should write as their own feedback. We produce a whole class feedback sheet every half term that the students personalise. I was very keen to attend this one to see if my school is unusual in this approach & it would appear we are. I was also very eager to see how I could improve my own practice with feedback as I have tried to automatise as much of it as possible.

The cycle most schools probably use

Cat pointed out that there are many schools that operate a policy of detailed & regular marking with feedback for every student. Think to your own school policy, how much time do you dedicate to this practice, how much time do your students dedicate to it AND how much does it actually help your students to improve?

The suggested alternative is that, instead of you using lots of your valuable time to mark & feedback only for your students to give a one word response to it, you get your students to put more time into the feedback cycle & ultimately make better progress for it.

Cat’s idea to ensure that this happens is to give your students a list of topics that are going to be covered in a two weekly cycle & link them to a Hegarty Maths Clip (this could easily be a MathsWatch video or one of CorbettMaths‘ vidoes). The students are told that they need to complete 30 minutes of work based around these topics, which they chose from. At the end of the two week cycle the content is assessed, this includes a literacy element & also content form previous years or cycles (Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve anyone?). These assessment are peer marked in class & the teachers’ job is merely to look through them & identify students who are a cause for concern.

Now the best thing about this is that from there on in the feedback is only guided by the teacher, the majority of the work is completed by the students themselves. This gives them more ownership of it, ensures that they engage better with it, recognise their weaknesses & better yet learn how best to correct it.

The really detailed Feedback/Feedforward sheet you see here is (almost) entirely filled out by the student. They select a question they got wrong & watch a Hegarty clip attached to it, make some notes, copy an example question & create a similar question to it. They then correct the selected question from the assessment. Finally they make some notes as to what they have done about the topic(s) they are less confident with, why they think they might have struggled with them & what they can do next time to ensure they don’t struggle with it again.

Cat has noted that she is in a lucky position with regard to SLT buying into this idea & that there were some compromises made in implementing this form of feedback. But the students are engaging better with it, they are themselves saying that they are finding it more useful & it gives them a more immediate fix to their weaknesses.

So if you are being weighed down by endless marking & feedback perhaps you should consider something like this yourself? Personally I operate in a similar fashion, again I am lucky that my SLT don’t have a stringent marking policy & the expectation is that the students put more into it than the teachers. This session has given me some things to think about:

  1. Give my students the list of topics in advance, to get them to be more proactive in their study
  2. Create assessments with older topics to create that need for continual revision & recall
  3. Make my assessments so they are split into OA1, OA2 & OA3 sections so that I can better see where my students’ struggles are

Wow! I actually do have a lot to say! I won’t make these blogs too long as you won’t read them all the way through. So, I will do a blog a day this week covering the rest of the sessions I attended.

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