Book scrutiny once again shows that I don’t do much of things I think are pointless…

Myself and a colleague just scrutinised each others books. The marking was almost identical and the books were pretty similar in many ways.

The feedback was much as the same as the feedback usually is when someone looks at my marking. Every box was ticked except the one about regularly sharing the level of the work and the one about pupils responding to diagnostic marking.

Almost every time someone looks at my marking it falls down on one of both of those fronts. The reason for this is that I don’t see the value in doing those things so I am either not doing them or constantly trying to judge the least amount of time I can spend on them while still ticking the box. I often misjudge this (particularly when I’m in a new school).

I mean what is the point of telling pupils what level the work their doing is? It’s probably the only thing more pointless than covering their books and planners with target and current levels. When I tell pupils what level the work they’ve done is the outcome is rarely positive. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to do with the information. Whatever it is they’re supposed to do they probably aren’t doing it.

I’m also skeptical about the merits of diagnostic feedback and giving pupils time to respond. It doesn’t really work for the way I teach. I make it clear what I want them to do. I use various forms of AFL to make sure they all understand. Those that need an extension task get one and I make sure they understand it.

As a result most of my pupils get the work right most of the time. Most of the errors they make are careless ones and not ones to do with their conceptual understanding. Obviously I correct their mistakes but generally my comments on improving their work are more about how their work is presented (drawings in pencil, use a ruler, show your working out, improve presentation etc) than about how to improve their maths because they are generally getting it right.

Every lesson I go around the class early on checking their work and picking up any conceptual misunderstandings there might be. This is far more valuable and important in my opinion than written feedback after the lesson is ever going to be. Doing so improves their maths in a way that written feedback is highly unlikely to. I often wonder who the written feedback is for.

In the past I have been told to write in their book what level their work is and how they can improve to the next level. The problem with this is simple. If they have understood the work then generally how to get to the next level would be to do something I haven’t taught them yet. What’s the point of writing “you can solve equations with variables on both sides (L6). To get Level 7 you should try solving simultaneous equations” if I haven’t taught them how to do that? I could give them an example of how to solve a simultaneous equation but I’m questioning whether most pupils would understand it without explanation simply by reading an example. If they haven’t understood the work then I fail to see how writing down how to do it is going to help. They didn’t understand it when I had just explained it to them and was there to answer their questions so why would they understand it written in their book?

Either way it’s a giant waste of my time. This hasn’t stopped me from filling their books with feedback as requested.

Having spent time writing all this feedback I suppose I ought to make sure they read it and respond. I’m just not sure what the point of that is.

Will it improve their Maths? Probably not.

Does it tick a box? Absolutely.


7 thoughts on “Book scrutiny once again shows that I don’t do much of things I think are pointless…

    1. Johannab72

      I once asked a student what their target was and he said ‘To remember what my target is?’…enough said!

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