Kaizen – a continuous improvement approach to teaching.

With thanks to my colleague Dr M for her great idea!

For years I have stuck to the system of regular homework essays which students submit on paper and I hand back with a feedback sheet attached. This sets out one or two clear targets for them to improve. I then keep a record of any targets I have set and any other comments, this helps me to build up a picture of each student and write the termly reports. This is not a flawed or broken system and has served me well.

After looking round our staff room, participating in whole school marking review and asking some colleagues I came to the conclusion that there must be a better system. Kaizen!

3 major problems with the current system:

1. I cannot see any evaluation from students on how they think they did and how they think they could improve e.g. underline quotes, use more context specific vocab and so on.

2. I also cannot get an overview of their home works over two years, as all feedback is hurriedly hole punched and filed away.

3. I also suspect that students are just looking at the grade and not reading the feedback.

3 improvements that I wanted to achieve from my new home work system

1. I would like students to be correcting their mistakes rather than continuing to make the same mistakes over and over.

2. I would like to be able to introduce students to more complex ideas like MOPS in 20 mark essay conclusions.

3. I would also like to close the feedback loop, which sounds a bit office jargonish, but I really think more progress can be made if there is continuous feedback on work and more evaluation from the students on their own work.

The solution:

I found some A4 exercise books (after a long search of a very big but dimly lit stationery cupboard) and printed out copies of; essay planning sheets, tips for good essays, level descriptions for 10, 12 and 20 mark questions and MOPS examples. Students stuck these in the exercise books and this created a reference section at the front. This means they will be able to refer back to it at all times and so there should be no essays with missing definitions or conclusions.

I also asked students to complete a back page with their targets, asking them to take an analytical look back at their old essays and write in any targets that keep appearing. I also helpfully was on hand to give them a target or two. They can tick these off as they achieve them which should prevent them slipping back into old habits.

From now on students will write their essays in the exercise book or on paper and then stick it in. I will then write feedback underneath and they can then write an evaluation afterwards. I shall write in green and they can use their “purple pen of progress” to write their section.

I have agreed with the students that if they hate these new home work books that we can ditch it by Christmas and return to the previous system. I hope to update this blog later in the year and post some pictures of a mock up of one.

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