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

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

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.

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