Refreshing Attitudes: Using Peer Assessment with Year 7

Hello blog… long time no see.

I’ve reached that wonderful point in the school year when all your good intentions start to fade and the Pinterest-worthy vision I had for my teaching style this year evaporated when the reality of the RQT timetable kicked in. I’m not alone in this though, once October started there was a significant change in my students too. Pens are suddenly missing, shoes are scuffed and the smiley enthusiasm that only six weeks of lie ins can give someone has morphed into ‘but I’m sooooo tired miss!’.

This was most noticeable in one of my year 7 classes. They started off eager to please, thrilled to be studying something as ‘cool sounding’ (their words, not mine!) as Graphics. I teach them for a double period (100mins) on a Thursday morning and it is one of the few lessons of their week when their form groups are mixed.  After a strong start and some really promising work they started to get sloppy in maintaining their folders. (We teach technology on a carousel rotation so we use A4 display folders so that we can adapt them to teaching all 6 of the material areas.) I began to notice work sheets poking out of the tops of the folders getting tatty, A3 sheets folded with the work facing in, green pen going from extended analysis to one word answers and success criteria going unfilled.

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I wasn’t really sure how to tackle this within a whole class so I asked my former NQT mentor and Graphics-teacher-partner-in-crime @MRSTTech and she suggested trying this work sheet she developed last year when having a similar issue with year 8. The idea is really simple – the students peer assess one another using criteria based on  ‘effort’ (such as the level of response to SPAG, how complete their work is and neatness of presentation) in a similar format to how we analyse student work during marking scrutinies or book looks. I adapted the worksheet to match the work my students had completed and increased the ratings to give the maths element more challenge, then decided to give it a go first lesson back after half term.

I introduced this task to them by telling them that over half term I had marked their folders and was disappointed in the state they had left them in so I was going to give them ‘a go of being me’ by conducting a class book look. We then as a class discussed some examples of work and the rating they would give to try to standardise their marking – then they swapped folders with a partner, got out the green pens and worked in near silence for 35 minutes peer marking. I hadn’t planned on spending more than 10 minuetes on this but they were focusing so much and being so meticulous in their assessment that I decided to let them carry on. Once they had completed the worksheet we spoke as a class about what they had done well and what they could improve. Interestingly, many of them actually asked if they could spend some time working in green pen to improve their score! There was a real shift in attitude towards their DIRT  time and it gave clear strong and weak-points that the students used to prioritise their effort. Because we had spent such a long time actually completing the book look I only gave them 10 minutes DIRT time but they probably could have continued onwards for another 10 before running out of steam. We then carried on with what I had originally planned but at the end of the lesson every single A3 was handed to me folded in half with the work facing outwards and no doodling – such a small thing but a minor victory with that class!

Although it was a time-consuming activity I actually think I want to use this activity with more of my classes more often – it honestly appeared to motivate them to actively want to improve their work rather than just write the bare minimum. The only downside is that out of surprise as to how hard they worked I said I would rescore their folders based on their improvements – with hindsight I’ve now realised it would probably be more effective if I got them to do it!

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