Peer and Self Assessment

Materials from the recent training session on developing Peer and Self-Assessment strategies.

I hope some of the ideas and materials may be useful in the next two weeks as we look at AFL as the lesson drop-in theme. However we know there is outstanding practice in all departments. If you have a resource, idea or strategy you wish to share please send send it to me and I will post here for all to see.

Peer and Self Assessment Handout SGBIS

Peer and self assessment twilight

Homework. A thought from the Maths Department

With thanks to Marco for his strategy for differentiated, personalised and ‘flipped’ Maths homework.

Students need to write down three (or more) starter questions appropriate to the ability of the class. The questions may be old ones already done in class, chosen from their textbooks or from any other resource. They need to provide clear wording, full workings and hopefully correct solutions. The teacher then has a vast number of questions to choose from throughout the year. Students can vote the most creative, interesting, challenging etc. And once a question is ‘used’ they need to replenish their bank of questions (I ask them to write them at the back of their exercise books) so that we never run out of them.

It may be an old chestnut but students’ feedback is always very positive as it mixes consolidation, open-ended research, a specific focus on the needs of that particular group.

I usually give them 5-10 mins at the start of the lesson (they’re starters after all!), depending on the difficulty of the question, and ask them to work on their own. This gives the teacher some useful time to informally assess students’ recall and ability to apply their knowledge.

A mini-plenary can follow to highlight and tackle most common mistakes/misconceptions.

Developing Homework

Does homework actually help students to succeed?

As mentioned many times in the past year, Hattie’s approach in his groundbreaking book, “Visible learning for teachers: maximising impact on teaching”, is to compare the impact of different teaching interventions using a single ‘barometer of effect sizes’.

Effect sizes above d=0.40 are considered to be within the ‘zone of desired effects’. In other words, anything above d=0.40 is really worth our time as it has a significant impact on student achievement.


Homework effect size for secondary schools: d= 0.64.

An effect size of d= 0.64 is the equivalent of approximately a year’s learning.

As a rule, the impact of homework is greater if the task is concise, meaningful and tightly linked to current classroom learning.

Only as students get older, are they more able to complete open-ended activities

Key Reasons why homework matters:

1) Bridges between teacher-led and student-led learning, encouraging independence

2) Extends learning time beyond the confines of the school day

3) Creates Opportunities for Creativity and Choice of activity

4) Develops the skills required for higher learning at IGCSE IB and beyond

5) Reduces the diverging effect of home support

6) Communicates the values of the school and the teacher to the student and parent

How can we improve the impact of homework tasks?

  • Ensure students have the big picture, tell them what work they will be doing in advance
  • Offer a range of core and optional tasks which reflect interests, learning styles, progress and capabilities
  • Ensure homework is differentiated for EAL, SEN, PA, boys and girls
  • Ensure enough time is given to complete homework tasks to a high quality
  • Ensure that the expectations are clear and concise
  • Provide students with models of good practice
  • Provide students with the mark schemes or success criteria in advance
  • Provide useful sources of information, websites, books, articles
  • Encourage peer and self-assessment allowing students to assess their own progress
  • Ensure timely marking of student’s work providing quick feedback

TA Homework

Takeaway 1

References and Further reading

# Tweak of the week Seating Plans

As the new academic year begins to take shape and we all bed in with new classes, new students, changing topics, it’s worth spending some time thinking about classroom organization and in particular the use of seating plans. It is sometimes argued that seating plans are most useful in challenging poor behavior, allowing the teacher to identify potential issues and manage these through careful grouping and spacing. This has significant value. However what these arguments often miss are the educational benefits that come with careful organization of teaching spaces for specific activities. What follows are some possible benefits of developing your own approach to seating plans

By ability/prior attainment

This is a simple and effective way to organise your classroom. Students with broadly similar prior attainment are seated together in groups no of more than four.


  • Supports progress as students discuss, develop and critique one another’s ideas, embedding reflection and peer review.
  • Allows the teacher to use easily targeted questioning techniques to probe understanding.
  • Supports differentiation thorough locating students of similar attainment together making the distribution of support or stretch and challenge materials or tasks far easier.
  • Gives the teacher easy access to students who need additional support.
  • Variation 1
  • For some activities you may want to consider organising students in mixed ability groupings. In doing this it is vital to ensure a fair distribution of students, ensuring that no single group are either far too strong or require too much scaffolding and support.
  • Benefits
  • Provides opportunities for students to work with peers who they may rarely work with, promotes group cohesion.
  • Allows you to assign specific roles to individuals, encouraging them to reflect on their own contribution and that of others.
  • Reduces potential labeling, fosters a sense of cooperation.
  • Promotes self-esteem

Seating Plan Example

  • Variation 2
  • Sometimes we may group student by learning preference or style. CATS data can be powerful in indicating specific learning dispositions, consider seating groups according to their CATS profile which indicate their Verbal, Non-Verbal, Quantitative and Spatial Ability scores.
  • Benefits
  • Allows students to become ambassadors for a specific learning preference.
  • Support differentiated resources and task setting.
  • Gives students access to and experience of working with others of different strengths and weaknesses.

Final thoughts

Even if you only organize your class in one fixed way creating a seating plan, especially with a new class or new students, allows you to clearly and simply identify those students who may require additional literacy support, differentiated materials or tasks or who regularly need stretch activities. This can ease the provision of in class differentiation, through questioning, different activities and teacher support.

I attach a very simple seating plan template, in V1 the class is sat according to progress towards their target grade, in V2 according to learning style and roles are assigned to each. I would be keen to see other examples

#Teacher 5 A Day Tweak of the Week

So as we start a new academic year one of the targets I have is to write more blog posts and even more importantly to get as many people as possible to contribute their thoughts, ideas and teaching strategies.

Each monday will see a new Tweak of the Week, here is the first, enjoy!

Staff well-being is major focus at St George’s this year. Teaching is a stressful profession and one in which it is not always easy to predict workloads. In order to be at our best in the classroom we need to look after ourselves, making a conscious effort to maintain our physical and psychological balance. As we start the New Academic Year this would seem to be a perfect time of focus on our own well-being.

The #Teacher 5 A Day concept is simple. Identify 5 changes you will introduce this year to help support your home-work balance and allow you to thrive in the classroom.

Here are mine

  1. Stop and talk to a different student each day. Not about their studies. But how they are, what they have been up to, how they feel about things. In all honesty this is a very simple thing to achieve, and one I already try to do each day, it’s about continuing to do this, especially during busy stressful times.
  2. Try to find time to exercise, not something I have historically been very good at, but a little exercise a couple of times a week should not be too difficult to achieve, there you go, I have publicly said it!
  3. Eat well, and take proper time for lunch in particular. This can very challenging during the school day but is vitally important. We all need to stop, even if just for 30 minutes, eat, chat and simply be. Also remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water during the day.
  4. Switch off from work in the evening and at weekends. This means turning off emails. Too often late evenings are given over to reading and responding to emails, that’s fine at particularly busy times but too easily becomes a habit. At least twice a week and on Fridays and Saturdays I will try not to check emails after 6pm. If I haven’t answered your email, I am not ignoring it, I probably haven’t seen it yet!
  5. Plan to do new things. There are so many wonderful places to visit in the region and across Italy, I must make more of the opportunities. Planning evenings and weekends in advance will mean I am committed to them, despite how easy it would be to simply flop at the end of the day/week. Any suggestions regarding where to go and what to do happily received.

These are my #5 a day, some simple, personal steps to help maintain my well-being and work life balance. What are yours?

#Tweak of the Week: A weekly post sharing one teaching resource, idea or strategy. No1 Oracy: Talking for Writing

Oracy: the ability to express oneself in and understand spoken language.


A simple concept, but one that can be adapted to meet more complex needs, structuring and formalizing classroom discussion and oracy as the first stage in producing extended writing.

This can be used as a starter activity, plenary or in this case to support structured discussion regarding a GCSE enquiry question in history.

Talking frame

The students are given an image or text, a simple talking frame and a range of key words. They are then asked to annotate the source or text to identify key figures, interpretations or meanings.

Working with a talk partner or in small groups of no more than three, students practice giving formal structured responses. During the whole class feedback activity students can only respond using the talking frame and are encouraged to use as many key words as possible in their response. Imprecise or incorrect language should be challenged by the teacher and the other students, supporting the development of peer and self-regulation. This can then lead into students producing a written answer to a short exam style question.


A more lengthy variation on this idea is a living essay. After being taught the key content, students are given a practice essay or exam question. The class need to be organized in small groups depending on the number of key factors relevant to the question.

Each group needs to produce one part of the essay, usually one factor which, depending on the subject or topic, will normally be one or two paragraphs. They are given key words and a possible writing frame and need to produce a model paragraph in response to the question.

One group should be given the responsibility for producing the introduction and conclusion, requiring them to negotiate with each group to ensure coherence with the main body of the essay.

Each paragraph should be written up on A3 or sugar paper, ideally these can be worn by students in the form of tabards. Students then need to organize themselves into a logical structure and nominate a minimum of one person from each group to read their paragraph. The essay then comes ‘alive’ as it where, as each group are filmed reading their paragraph in order.


This can be used to introduce extending writing, develop the rules and give opportunities to practice producing formal paragraphs at the same time as encouraging inter and interdependent learning.

Best Lesson ideas: A little story!

This weeks best lesson idea comes from Veryan in the Geography department. She says…

I use this simple idea in both Geography and ESS (Environmental Systems and Societies) to exemplify how unknown units can be made clearer by putting them into terms that the audience will understand. This is used as a precursor to a lesson on geological time scales, a concept that humans in general find difficult to understand unless it is translated into a concept such as a persons life span or a 24 hour clock (to name two actual examples)

First a little story!

I wonder how other department areas could use this idea to introduce and explain complex ideas in easy to understand ways..feel free to forward any ideas you develop.

Thanks again to Veryan for sharing.