Make Marking Count!

Let’s be honest how much time do we have for giving pupils quality feedback in History? The answer is usually very little as our attention is still firmly focused on raising standards in literacy and numeracy. So while there is some outstanding practice in assessment happening in schools today its impact is rarely seen in the foundation subjects. The message from Ofsted is that they are not looking for a particular type, volume or frequency of marking so this flexibility should empower us to rethink our approaches.

Here are some ideas to ensure that even when you are short on time your feedback has the necessary impact to move learning forward.

  • To be able to give powerful feedback you must have clear objectives focused on learning in history. Remember these should go beyond just knowledge and even more importantly include the skills and concepts. Rising Stars History units will provide you with examples of how to write history-focused objectives.
  • Having a particular assessment focus throughout a topic helps to keep feedback sharp and targeted on progression. History subject leaders should map these out over the key stage to ensure coverage. The Rising Stars Progression Framework for History will support you with this work.
  • Remember that marking is just one aspect of feedback and quality or in depth marking is just one approach. Look at the range of opportunities for giving feedback and choose the one that is most appropriate to the type of work and context. Decide the depth and type of feedback required when you are planning the lesson.
  •  Having a variety of feedback approaches is not just good for you – it also keeps your pupils engaged. If pupils are constantly required to evaluate their own progress using the same format they will quickly become tired of the process.  Consider times when you can adopt a whole class feedback approach reviewing an outstanding piece of work together and discussing some common errors or misconceptions made by the group. 
  • Feedback in History should always focus on the History objective- yes it may be that you are also required to mark the literacy but this should be in addition to the History not instead of. 
  • End of enquiry tasks provide an ideal opportunity for giving pupils more detailed feedback. Often this feedback is a waste of your time.  One teacher talks about it being just like a post-mortem as it is undertaken too late for change and frequently focuses on something that will not be revisited. Think carefully about how this feedback feeds forward to the next piece of work or topic. 
  • This detailed feedback is often accompanied by reflective questions. A less time consuming approach adopted by one school included identifying next steps in the learning for pupils working at different stages and then printing out sets of comments. After highlighting the areas of strength the teacher just added the appropriate statement for development into pupils’ books. Pupils were then given time to respond to this feedback and where possible to discuss as a class. The Rising Stars Progression Framework for History will support you with writing statements.
  • To be able to give effective feedback in History you need to be clear about what an accomplished piece of work in that area looks like. Subject leaders should compile a portfolio of materials to support the development of this understanding.
  • Remember sometimes it is most appropriate to just check books and use a sign to acknowledge this has been done. Just make sure that when this happens pupils know why you are using this approach. 

Many of these ideas are good practice in any curriculum area but sadly these are most quickly forgotten in the foundation subjects. 

Bev Forrest is a primary teacher trainer based in the North of England. She is Chair of the Historical Association primary committee and recently gained Chartered Teacher of History status. Bev is a Quality Mark assessor for the Historical Association and as part of her work visits primary schools across the country. She is the author of Rising Stars History

Thank you to Laura Hossack History Subject Leader at Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School in Leeds for sharing her ideas.

Ofsted, The Draft Subject Inspection Handbook, January 2019, p. 17


'Foundation, History, Subjects'

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