PCSA Learning Loads Blog

Maximum impact – Minimum workload

22 Nov 2017

Having read the following article http://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/reducing-teacher-workload-re-thinking-marking-michaela-files-part-1/ I decided to try it out with one of my classes. The article encourages readers to think about marking in terms of having ‘maximum impact with minimum effort.’ The context for this experiment is that students do a knowledge test and an extended piece of writing for Assessment Week (8) and the areas of weakness should inform the lessons taught in Super Teach Week (9). Inevitably, there is an increased amount of marking to be done and the task can seem quite daunting. The thought of potentially writing the same comments over and over again such as ‘link to the question’ or ‘use PEE’ is not an energising or a swift task.

The article suggests that students work is not marked at all, but simply graded, and feedback is communicated from the front of class and addressed in the next lesson. Clearly, there is not time to go through every student’s feedback and that is not the intention. Simply an overview of common areas of weakness will do so students spend more time getting better at a number of key areas, rather than a small amount of time getting better in one area.

I trialled this with one of my Y9 classes. After the knowledge test students were asked to reflect on strengths and weakness and stick the post-it note to the test to inform the knowledge section of my Super Teach lesson (see pic below).

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I then marked the essay question they had written on the incarnation. Rather than adding comments throughout and a mark at the end, I placed an overall mark and a simple praising comment (see pic below).

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At the start of the Super Teach lesson students were given their papers back and then also given a slip of paper with the areas of development for the class. This gives the student a clear indication of the general areas of weakness in the class and also a guide as to the content of the lesson. Tick boxes are added so the student can track progress and also give a clear indication of that progress to themselves and the teacher. Purple pen is used throughout to indicate revisiting and improving of work.

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The example in this lesson demonstrates that students had weak keyword knowledge surrounding the incarnation and this had impeded their ability to communicate well using PEEL in their extended exam question answer. By targeting the subject knowledge first, students could then undertake the subsequent tasks with greater confidence.

By the end of the lesson all students had improved in three key areas when writing 15-mark answers: Use of keywords, using PEEL effectively and writing a balanced conclusion. My feedback to students once they had done this clearly shows an improvement in their writing (see pic below).


It is important to understand that this lesson contained lots of input from the teacher in terms of exam technique teaching and reinforcing of PEEL through memorable teaching tools such as ‘pass the orange’ prior to students having a go themselves. This back and forth between teacher and student certainly had a positive effect on students wanting to improve and understand where they had gone wrong and rectify that – see ppt attached.

 As a teacher, I had more time to make the Super Teach lesson the ‘main event’ that it should be because I was able to gather feedback quickly and efficiently and communicate it to students in a memorable and, most importantly, successful way.

If the mission was to reduce workload whilst simultaneously increasing impact then MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Students left the lesson writing notes to their future selves advising them not to make the same mistakes again in a Back to the Future style task. I left the lesson knowing that most students had improved in their understanding and practice of exam skills. Great feeling!

 Some things to think about:

 I am sure that feedback to students could be differentiated and the tasks focused on selected specifically for certain grades. This requires more work and thought but could perhaps avoid:

  • High ability students feeling bored or that their original high-quality work has not been ignored.
  • Low ability students being put off by tasks too difficult and therefore making no progress at all.
  • A variety of tasks for students to improve so they could select areas to improve.

By Josh Howard (Humanities Teacher).and Bryony Downing (PGCE trainee).

Reducing teachers input but maximising impact! A strategy in maths

15 Nov 2017

The knowledge tests in week 8 illustrated that there were four key areas of weakness in my year 9 class. We discovered this by peer marking the tests and then RAG assessing the questions, see the picture below to help explain. This was all done by the students so a minimum marking load for the teacher.

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I then spent the time planning and preparing for my next lesson to ensure that my teaching had an impact on progress. For a while now the buzz word is ‘mastery’, I wanted my students to gain mastery for at least one of their areas of weakness so they wouldn’t under perform in future assessments. One strategy to achieve this is practice practice practice with an increase in complexity. This link https://mkuzak.github.io/teaching/softwarecarpentry/2017/01/08/how-do-students-develop-mastery.html helps explain as well as the excellent book ‘How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching’.

I therefore produced many practice questions for the areas of under performance that increased in complexity.

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In the lesson, learners selected the appropriate set of questions for completion, however more importantly they had to explain the processes/methods they were applying to ensure success. This was done in purple pen to highlight their progress. Time will tell of the impact of this strategy but initial thoughts are that behaviour and engagement of all was very high. Being careful to use growth mindset language http://croydonps.vic.edu.au/growth-mindset/ students enjoyed the challenge and felt proud of their achievements.

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Jodie Liddington

Impact Marking

08 Nov 2017

This term at PCSA we have started to evaluate the impact of our feedback to students. In particular on progress, especially with specific groups of students who may have under-performed in the past. It has been fascinating when conducting learning walks to investigate the different cohorts of students and to see the differing responses they have to specific instructions by the teacher.

Over the next month, we are planning to promote strategies that really encourage the progress of all and have a clear impact on performance. In today’s review of PE books key word use was seen to improve by the very simple ‘repeat three times’ rule. When a student forgot to use an appropriate key word in a practice GCSE question the teacher wrote it in green. The student when reviewing their answers had to repeat the word three times and then write a definition of it in their key word logs. This clearly helped improve subject specific language use in later questions in their books.

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First post of the year

09 Sep 2017

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Excellent first blog post from our new humanities geography specialist Miss Rees. I have also whitnessed Miss Smith use this strategy with students selecting tasks from a ‘lucky dip’!

“During my PGCE, I collated different ideas for starters, teaching and learning activities and plenaries, then created these keyrings (see picture above). I mainly use these to plan a quick lesson. This is an easy way if you are lacking inspiration. They also come in handy if you want pupils to decide what the teaching and learning activity to be for a particular lesson.”

Miss Rees

Using check lists to drive improvement in LGU

25 Nov 2016

Students who make exceptional progress can explain what they can do and more importantly what they can’t do. They show an awareness of their areas of weakness and have the skills and ability to be able to work towards improvement in these areas. In LGU we noticed lots of generic comments when learners were self-assessing on their yellow stickers. When they were suggesting how they could improve they were giving comments such as ‘write more’ instead of insightful knowledge of the core subject skills they need to improve


To challenge this we started producing simple check lists for each tasks. A list of perfect instructions that students should inspire to try to meet. This made our learners fully aware of what they could and couldn’t do and helped them to self-evaluate effectively.

success-crieria-spanish unnamedsuccess-criteria

Sandrine Boll

Success Criteria in Drama

15 Nov 2016

To engage our year 8 students at the beginning of lessons we present them with literacy based puzzles. The answers are the focus of each lesson and students are prompted to look at key words displayed on the board. The learning objectives also give clues as to what the focus of the lesson will be. Differentiated learning objectives are used and communicated back by way of thumbs up or down. This is to gage student’s prior knowledge and ensure all students understand the task.


Image of differentiated learning objectives used in a lesson focusing on dramatic tension.

Our key to success was introduced before the students split off into their groups so they knew where to develop their skills in order to achieve bronze, silver or gold. Half way through the students discussed where they think they are on the success criteria and why. I then questioned them on how they could achieve the next step on the key to success. This is an effective way for students to understand and identify what they must do to move up on the success criteria.


Image showing success criteria for ensemble work with a focus on showing dramatic tension within a performance.

As a group we re-visited the success criteria after the students had created and performed a scene focusing on our learning objectives. Doing this three times at different stages of the rehearsal process showed how the students developed their understanding and were able to improve on where they think they are on the success criteria.

The image below displays the students identifying themselves where they think they are on the success criteria. The majority felt they had achieved silver in lesson, below is an image of students identifying they had met gold in lesson. Students were able to explain why they thought they had achieved gold by using key words already established in the lesson.


By doing this students will have identified what stage they have achieved on the success criteria, be able to explain why and finally what they will need to do to achieve the next stage.

By Abbie Hannaby (PGCE Drama Student)


Using Success Criteria in Science

09 Nov 2016

When our Year 7s arrive in science we guarantee engagement by ensuring learners complete a wide range of tasks. Miss Kinsey has been experimenting with creative writing encouraging learners to utilise their creative writing and literacy skills which they learned in KS2 with their newly gained science knowledge.


Images showing year 7 students using the red, orange and green pages in their planners to self-assess their work, in ‘live’ time, with relation to a given success criteria.

I discussed the task with students. With their input, we created a success criteria that included both scientific facts and key words as well as spelling and grammar points. Students worked their way through the list of ‘successes’ using their traffic lights to judge how well they were doing/how confident they felt.


During an independent learning task this allows effective directed teacher time as you know which students require further help and which students are content to be left alone!

It also promotes peer teaching and conversations, for example, ‘You’re on green, however, I’m stuck…help!’


Louise Kinsey

Success Criteria at PCSA

18 Sep 2016

Welcome to the brand new PCSA learning and teaching blog. Previously a termly paper magazine has been produced sharing best practice across the academy, it is  time to change and blogging provides a great platform. The philosophy of the publication is to drive improvement by providing teachers with an opportunity to see practical examples that work in the classroom. Each term has a theme, for term one it is the use of success criteria to improve learners outcomes.

Put simply success criteria is a list of descriptions to help explain what a task would be like if perfect. If used correctly it can dramatically improve the quality of students learning as it clearly explains what is expected. There are many ways to both establish and use success criteria in the classroom. Personally I  have always tried to stick to the four stages described below to help maximise its impact.

1. Establish, Creating the success criteria

This should ideally be created with the students, I highly recommend sharing both the mark scheme as well as  exemplars to aid this. In my view success criteria should never be more than a list of 5 actions to maximise its impact. A method which has worked well for me recently is to show the class an outstanding previous example and then ask them to write one reason why it is great on a post-it note. These are then stuck to the white board and the most common examples become the success criteria.

2. Achieve

The class are then allowed time to put the learning into action, in the example below this was to complete an exam question. Often it is a good idea to get the class to tick the success criteria every time they believe they have achieved it. Several times during the completion of a task it is well worth stopping the class and ensuring all are on task by asking individuals how many of the success criteria they have completed. These mini plenaries can also be used to praise those who making great progress by sharing their learning.


3. Review

This particular lesson provided the perfect opportunity for peer assessment. Success criteria helps to focus student comments so they are constructive and specific. If used effectively the generic ‘neater’ comment will be avoided. As you can see the peer assessor highlighted and circled areas of the students’ work where they believed they achieved the objectives.

4. Next

If time allows students should correct the issues so they gain the feeling of accomplishment. Success criteria can also provide a point of focus with longer tasks.