#21 Don't give exam papers or homework back before whole class feedback
If you do, students might switch off
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💡 A quick tip to try in class this week 💡
Picture the scene: You marked a class set of assessments last night and identified three key questions that you want to go through with all your students as part of a process of whole-class feedback. Just before you start going through the problematic questions, you give your students their assessment papers back. And then… all hell breaks loose.
All of a sudden students begin obsessing about their marks and the marks of their mates. Sir, you have marked this wrong! Miss, why am I so crap at maths? It takes you a good few minutes to settle the class down and focus on the front.
But the problems do not end there.
You announce that you are going to go through Question 3 because many students struggled on it. Josh has a look through his paper and sees he has got Question 3 correct, and so promptly switches off and starts flicking bits of rubber at Ben. Charlotte looks at her paper and sees she has got Question 3 wrong… along with Questions 4, 5 and 6. She feels pretty rubbish about herself, decides once again that she will never understand maths and also switches off.
How can we improve things?
First, the idea of focussing on problematic questions and going through them with the whole class is a good one. It is far superior in terms of effectiveness and workload to what I used to do for most of my career: write individual feedback on each student’s work that would take hours and subsequently be ignored.
But, as soon as you give students their assessments back before diving into whole-class feedback, you lose a lot of time and attention in the ways described above. So, the first thing to do is to not give the papers back yet. Instead, announce that you have marked the assessments and that students will get them back soon, but first, you are going to deal with three questions that lots of students struggled with. You have saved time, and because no one knows yet whether they got each of these questions right or wrong, there is a greater incentive for all students to pay attention.
But then we need to go one further. In my Eedi newsletter, I wrote about the Myth of Copying Things Down. Just because students watch you go through how to do a tricky question and then copy it into their books does not mean they understand it. Instead, you could say something like:
Right, Question 3 proved a tricky one for many of you, so here is what we are going to do. I am going to explain exactly how to do Question 3. I want you to watch and listen really carefully. When I have finished you can ask me any questions on anything that doe snot make sense. And then I am going to give you a similar question to do to check you have been listening.
This follow-up question provides an extra incentive for students to listen hard to your explanation and provides you with some evidence that the explanation you have given makes sense. Personally, I would have students complete the follow-up question on mini-whiteboards so you can easily check for effort and understanding, but I will leave that one up to you!
What would you need to change to make this tip work for you?
When could you try it for the first time?
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📺 A video to discuss with a colleague 📺
English teacher and author, Jamie Thom, discusses how we can stay positive as a teacher
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👂 A podcast episode to listen to on your way home 👂
Languages teacher, Jon Mumford, shares his five tips:
Consider the impact of audio feedback
Think creatively when attempting to improve engagement/performance of boys
Use D.I.R.T. as a post-assessment formative tool
How to get students peer assessing with group critique
How to organise the disorganised
Listen to the podcast here.
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