Do you need quick assessment tips?
As English teachers, we’re pressured to write novels-worth of feedback on every piece of student work that passes through our inbox.
But of course, if you try to do too much, you won’t be able to keep up.
This feeling that we’re not giving enough feedback through our grading process, can be a key factor leading to teacher burnout.
The best way to lighten your marking load is to find ways to work more efficiently.
Check out these quick assessment tips to help you do just that!
Tip #1: Not every assignment needs an official mark
You don’t need to assign a formal number grade to everything.
Not only is this an unnecessary drain on your time and energy, but it doesn’t actually help your students learn either.
Let’s talk about why.
The gradual release model of teaching encourages beginning new concepts with direct instruction, then providing scaffolding and assistance throughout the learning process until, gradually, students become able to independently apply what they’ve learned.
Basically, if we’re following this teaching model, students need many opportunities to practice a skill or task before they’re formally assessed on it.
Assigning a formal grade before students have been given enough time to master a new skill is unfair to the student, and an inaccurate, unhelpful measure of their achievement.
So then, what do we do with those smaller, in-between assignments? We’re still required to record something in the grade book, and we still need to keep up some kind of formative assessment so that we know where our students are at.
I use a check minus, check and check plus feedback system in my class. This way students are receiving timely feedback about concepts they have learned.
It’s as simple and easy as it sounds!
Here’s what each check represents:
- Check Minus – Meet with the teacher to go over the lesson/idea again
- Check – Keep going and use the bump it up board to add more details to your future assignments
- Check Plus – Wow! You are exceeding assignment expectations – use the enrichment bins or ask for an enrichment project
Tip #2: Build Feedback Into Your Rubrics
One of the easiest marking traps to fall into is rewriting the same thing too many times.
If you sit down with a stack of essays to mark, you might find after a while that you’re using a lot of the same phrases across assignments, and sometimes even multiple times on the same students’ work.
You don’t need to spend all of this time commenting “proofread your work” 30, 40 or 100 times per assignment. Even if you’re marking digitally, and using copy-paste, there is still a more efficient way.
When you’re creating your marking rubrics or checklists, build common feedback phrases right into the sheets.
To see an example of how I do this, check out the image below:
The first part of this example rubric is a “checkbric” (A rubric where you simply mark the level of achievement with a checkmark). This part of the sheet provides a formal number grade if needed.
The next section, “stars and wishes” is designed so that I can quickly circle relevant phrases and let students know the strengths of their work, as well as what to continue working on next time.
I leave enough room along the sides and bottom of the rubric for one or two personalized comments as well.
This style of marking sheet still allows me to provide tailored feedback to each student but cuts my marking time by more than half.
Tip #3: Get Your Students On Board
In order for either of the above tips to work effectively in your classroom, your students need to have a full understanding of how your systems work, and what kind of feedback they should be expecting on any given assignment.
Some students might come into your classroom with an expectation of getting a lot more personalized written feedback than these methods provide. They may be used to seeing dozens of scribbles and comments from the teacher on each and every paper that they hand in.
We as teachers know that more marking does not equal more useful feedback, but students may need this explained.
I like to introduce my check minus, check and check plus system, (along with the bump-it-up board headers) at the start of the year.
Understanding this formative marking system sets students up for success by encouraging a growth mindset. Students learn that they can move up to a higher check mark if they put in the work to continue developing their skills. It’s a simple system to understand, and it’s less intimidating to students than a formal grade.
For larger assignments, anytime that I introduce a new marking sheet (rubric), I take the time to go over it with students to make sure that they’re clear on what kind of feedback they’ll receive, and what it means.
When students understand the feedback you’re giving, and how they can use it to help them improve, you’ll find that you’ll save a lot of time and energy for both yourself and your students. I hope you can use these quick assessment tips in your classroom.