Coded marking…

#15MinForum – 4/11/16

Our latest 15 Minute Forum was led by Lucy McDonald on the topic of coded marking. This is an idea that Lucy first started exploring as a pgce student and which she continued to develop last year when she joined us as an NQT. It is certainly a nicely refined approach to marking that sits nicely with the message we are trying to push around being as efficient as possible with written feedback (see some thoughts here on the topic of trying to ‘Mark less but mark better’).

At the heart of the approach that Lucy adopts when it comes to providing written feedback on assessments, tests, key pieces of book work etc, is the principle that any sort of feedback should require more effort on the part of the student than the teacher. This is an idea that a number of staff are exploring in a variety of ways as part of the work of our Learning Communities this year, and sits nicely in our drive to make sure students are being made to think hard as part of their learning.

Lucy’s full presentation can be seen below, but the steps are as follows:

  1. Rather than providing each student with individual written comments on their work, create a numbered list of feedback points (this could be done in advance or built up while looking at student’s work). Then, as you go through each students work, simply write down (in the margin or at the end of the work) whichever numbers relate to the appropriate feedback points for this student. Depending on the nature of the work being assessed, a student may be given several numbers, or just a couple.
  2. Students are then provided with the full list of feedback points (on the projector or via showbie) and are then given time to write out the feedback points that the teacher has indicated to be most relevant to them. By the end of this stage, every student has a number of detailed feedback points for their work, but written out by them rather than by the teacher. As well as being a significant time-saver for the teacher, there is also the added benefit that in getting the students to write the comments out themselves, they are forced to engage with that comment.
  3. The final stage – and for me the big development on similar models that I’ve seen elsewhere – is that each of the numbered feedback points also correspends to a DIRT (Directed Improvement and Reflection Time) task. Again, students write these out… and then do them! This means that not only have the students been forced to write, read and consider the feedback points, but they are also then given an improvement task that relates directly to whatever their feedback was.


It might not work for every task on which a teacher is wanting to provide feedback after the task has been done (as opposed to feedback in the classroom to shape the work as it is being done), but there is a lot of scope here for increasing the return on our investment of time.

Other examples of coded marking would include providing literacy codes or letters which highlight where something is missing or underdeveloped. As long as the students know what the codes mean and how the system works, it would seem that any sort of coding could be very valuable! I think there is also scope to link this sort of approach to one where feedback is given, coded or otherwise, but the student then has the job of locating the section of the work to which the feedback refers. For example, on simple recall questions, why not tell a student they have got X number correct and Y number wrong, and then let them try and identify which ones were right and which were wrong…

For more suggestions of ways to reduce the time spent by teacher’s providing lengthy written feedback, this article from @joe_kirby has some thought-provoking suggestions!


See Lucy’s full presentation here…

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Author: L&T Magpie

Assistant Headteacher (L&T)

2 thoughts on “Coded marking…”

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