This term, using OneNote, I have responded to students’ essays using both verbal and written feedback. It has worked well. The process is:


1) Students paste their essay on a OneNote page.
2) They then copy and paste on the right of that essay a repeat essay.
3) They then respond in two ways:
a) They record themselves saying each paragraph. They listen back to correct phrasing. Corrections are made on the version on the right. Promotes independent revision.
b) I have recorded a narration of the essay. I have three points for box (1-3) and three points for the bubble (a-c). As I say the point (1), I write the number 1 next to the point in the essay to which I am referring. When the student play back the narration, they can jump to that part of the feedback.
You can see this method of feedback here and below:

The process takes about ten to fifteen minutes for each essay

Some thoughts underpinning this type of marking

English teachers, and teachers in England, focus on marking a lot. Geoff Barton suggested that English teachers need to mark for, on average, ten hours a week. In reality, this means that teachers would mark after school every day, and then more some on the weekend. If we are talking about numbers, then if teachers are to offer one comment for improvement, and one to notice achievement, then those 6 x 2 words = 12 words. If you imagine that those 12 words are written one every two weeks, then that’s 36 words every half-term (or six weeks…). If we multiply those 36 words by 150 students (not an impossible number, I taught 173 last year), then we have 5,400 words written every six weeks. If we might require three comments instead, then we could be talking over 15,000 written words every six weeks. This takes an impressive amount of endurance to sustain.

Other cultures have different foci: the Japanese have the lesson study where teacher is judged on the accuracy of their predictions of the effectiveness of their pedagogical methods; in Germany formative marking is much less prized while in China and America and India, multiple chioce questions are king.

Dylan Wiliam decried in his worthwhile paper ‘Beyond the Black Box’ how Assessment for Learning has become bastardised to the point where it is no longer doing what it should be doing. Assessment for Learning was about students actually thinking about the subject in a more conceptually empowered fashion. Instead, it became more many (including via resources on the TES) a tick-box activity where students would tick vague boxes to suggest that they might understand concepts that teachers would find difficult. Such paperwork can be arduous, and can even be completed by the teacher(!).

The issue with offering generic feedback at the end of work is that there is huge space between the teacher writing it (substantial effort) and the student acting upon it. While students might even respond to such feedback with ‘Ok’ or ‘I understand’, they still need to be really thinking about that target in the next suitable piece of work (which might, of course, be set at time so far in the future that previous thought has degraded). In other words, the actual effect of such marking on student thinking is remarkably limited.

Some ideal solutions would be for formative targets to be mini-tasks that students are allocated time to complete in lessons. This would ensure that such marking is understood at the right time, and before the opportunity is lost. A responsive rhythm of DIRT time is an ideal aspect of planning.