Welcome to my attempt to archive and share some experiences at making learning more visible in my classroom

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Not quite peer review

Year 12 were in limbo last week when they turned up for their History lesson with me.  Half of them were missing in action - revising or in an exam so I decided to get them to help me out.  I had a pile of Year 9 assignments to mark - pupils had created a written report based on enquiry into how the Nazis and Hitler got into power and how Jews has been persecuted in Europe prior to the 20th century.

Since Year 12 Historians are pretty much experts in the Nazi state due to their A/S studies I asked them to look over the work and provide feedback for the Year 9 students.  At first they were rather reluctant, sleepy, tired and cynical - "so we're just doing your work for you....?".

We briefly discussed what we were looking for and what they should comment on- there were clear success criteria for the format of the report and the solo taxonomy provided the framework for the level of thinking achieved in what was written. I then checked the feedback and marking with the sixth formers and added detail if it was missing.

The quality of feedback was really good - the markers tried to acknowledge the successes and then give specific, helpful feedback about what they could do to improve.  I felt this feedback from Lucy to Jack was really helpful and complimentary:

I really liked the simplicity of this feedback from Charlotte:

What was interesting was the the reflections of the sixth formers as we discussed peer assessment.   There was a clear divide between some of the sixth formers who felt that when peer assessing the work of people you knew well in your class it encouraged you to be more critical, whereas you were less likely to be "harsh" with people you didn't know.  On the other hand, some of the group felt it was a challenge to provide "feedforward" or advice for improvement to people you didn't know well as you weren't aware of the level they normally worked at and were capable of.   This is something teachers who know their students well take for granted.

The reaction of Year 9 to getting this feedback was on the whole markedly positive, there were two people who couldn't read the writing!  Mostly though Year 9 were surprised at the attention to detail; they liked the praise and some even wanted to write some notes of thanks in return!  It makes me consider how I can tap into this more and I'm now considering how we can use our classblog or perhaps Edmodo to submit work for "not quite peer review".

Assessing for Learning

I have become determined to help shape the quality of  my students writing as it is worked upon rather than relying on marking a piece and seeing the same errors time and time again.  Seems obvious, but I've fallen out of this habit.

So I used this quick technique yesterday in order to help structure some peer assessment / critique of an ongoing writing task (in an effort to try and "feed up" at least as much as "feedback" on tasks).  Year 8 students have been using their knowledge of evacuation experiences during the Second World War to write a creative diary piece which is, or should be, historically accurate.  We began the lesson by asking students to proofread a terrible piece of writing - something everyone can be successful at!

Students had completed their first draft of their diaries for homework and so they then proofread their own and then their partners writing, looking for the same sorts of common errors - punctuation and capitals, checking for sense.  Far too often students don't complete this valuable step in many areas of their work and so it was really encouraging to hear students talk about the errors, omissions and spellings they caught themselves almost getting away with as they examined their writing.

Once this was completed pupils moved up a gear and used the slips shown below to analyse key features of their drafts. (The idea came from this excellent page on the subject of drafting and showing pupils your drafting process and here is the link to the feedback rating cards.)  The idea is that students must RANK 5 features of their work from most evident skill to the least evident skill and then compare this with scores given by a partner.

Students on the whole enjoyed comparing their own ratings with their partner - and generally most pairs found some common ground, like the example shown above.  Where there was conflict over the scores this created a deeper analysis of the writing as students searched to either justify or counter the claims being made of their work.  When I then spoke to pupils as they absorbed the meaning of this analysis it became apparent that they could all, at the very least, identify which aspects of their work they needed to improve upon.

When I talked to small groups afterwards about the effectiveness and purpose of this strategy there was a difference of opinion.   Many pairs of students immediately saw the value in comparing the views of one's own writing with another person and discussing the areas they needed to improve.  However, some students, often those who had spent more time doing the self analysis before sharing their results with their partner, felt that ranking was counter-productive.  They claimed that where there were two or three really good features of their work they felt they wanted to give them a joint ranking of 2 or 3.  It took some time to help them see that thinking more deeply about their judgement was a useful exercise in proofreading.

It made me also realise that I hadn't worded the task well enough as the original author used the phrase "1= most evident skill 5 = least evident skill", whereas I had plumbed for 1=best feature.  I need to change this emphasis when I do this again and spend more time exploring the purpose and value of the activity before it begins.  Thanks for the feedback, Year 8.