Butterfly #2: Making Marking Work

Today we looked at something that impacts on all of us – how can we assess where students are at, provide feedback and targets for improvement and establish opportunities for reflection for both us and the students? In other words, decent marking whilst we keep our sanity and energies up.

The session was led by colleagues from diverse Curriculum areas: Paul Smith in Business and IT, Leah Bastienne in Art, and Chris Black in English, and they spoke of what worked for them in terms of feedback and assessment, alongside effective use of their time.


    • Business use the Blue stickers as a formative aid to dialogue and how to improve, mixing both self, peer and teacher assessment. Units are broken down into pieces to aid this formative process, so that students can get feedback as they work through each unit. This staged marking builds towards the Summative assessments at the end of the units, designed to save teacher time and drive student progress and learning.
    • Art have empowered their students at GCSE with a booklet for all their assessments, integrating this with the Syllabus requirements. Students self-evaluate using the criteria, alongside teacher marking, with  each unit of work is marked on strengths, areas to improve and finishes with a learner response. And all in 1 booklet for the course!


    • Chris Black in English has devised his own system for highlighting to students areas for them to work on – acronyms, double ticks and post-its are all used to make a set of 30 books easier to manage, whilst maintaining a dialogue with students where they can reflect on how to improve. Giving time for reflection following marking keeps the cycle going, so that students can progress from knowing where they are at to considering how they can improve.

For further ideas see:

Marking in Perspective, Selective, Formative, Effective, Reflective:


There was another great turn out from staff – thank you for your time. Marking is vital, all students tell us they want it!

The next session, #3, looks at Providing appropriately for our pupils, led by Emma McGroaty on Tuesday 23/9.

Butterfly#1: Setting up the Learning Environment

Our 1st Butterfly session was held yesterday, with the remit of:

How we as teachers establish the right atmosphere and ethos in our classrooms that both drives and supports learning and progress.’

Emma Mellon and Mike Wilce led the session, attended by 40 staff – a brilliant start!



The following ideas and strategies were looked at as enabling us to find the right mix of support, challenge & expectations:

* Know your class– Context sheets, speak to form tutors/DOLs or teachers who also teach them.

Seating plan– Try to set this according to the needs of the student, how they work best etc.

* Meet and greet– make sure you are on time and ready for them to enter your space.

* Calm entrance and exit– lining up outside or standing behind seats before you tell them to sit down.

* Consistency– be fair and reasonable in your lessons. Don’t forget to follow through on what you have said. If you said they are to be in a break detention – try to collect them if you are free or chase it up- call home and be sure that issues are resolved to allow you to move forward.

* Positive praise throughout the lesson to create a supportive atmosphere where the students feel ok about making mistakes and where aspirations are high- positives for completing extension tasks.

* Regular feedback either verbally or through marking- students feel appreciated and that their work and effort is worthwhile.

* Classroom environment- says a lot about you. Show casing students work can give them a sense of pride, being organised can model what we expect of the students.

* Follow the systems in place and speak to NC/NST if these are unclear.

* Take the time to get to know your students– do not base your impression on others opinion

* Engage with students on matters outside of the curriculum (sport)

* Have a sense of humour

* Consistency– even with difficult students

* Leave previous disputes, start each lesson afresh.

Next session is Tuesday 16/9: Making Marking Work – all welcome!

The Passionate Teacher

“Of some of our teachers, we remember the foibles and mannerisms, of others, their kindness and encouragement, or their fierce devotion to standards of work that we probably didn’t share at the time. And of those we remember most, we remember what they cared about and that they cared about us and the person we might become. It is this quality of caring about ideas and values, this fascination with the potential for growth within people, this depth and fervour about doing things well and striving for excellence, that comes closest to what I mean in describing ‘passionate teaching’”. (Robert Fried, from ‘The Passionate Teacher’)

I found this quote in the London Challenge programme that used the Butterflies approach to school development. Seeking, as the authors write, ‘high leverage both in the important things in school life and in reinforcing how the important things are done, we believe that small interventions can have a disproportionate effect.’

The programme has loads of suggestions for school improvement, lots of the 1% marginal gains, but the above quote about passionate teaching and teachers seems the key to me. From this can come so much.

Marginal gains in the classroom: small changes, big effect!


Holidays over, results published and students said goodbye to, we are back in to start 2014-15.
Teaching and Learning standards in the classroom as a priority for this year is a no-brainer really, but it really is vital, and refreshing that this will be such a focus. With this in mind we wanted to highlight this, as well as get all colleagues thinking about areas that they might target as a marginal gain, and also what they already do fantastically well.
Marginal gains, the 1%, are key this year. We are a good teaching school – to raise classroom standards even more, we can look at the small changes that can have a large effect. This is the Butterfly effect – a mind-bender of an idea that:
‘If sufficient butterflies were to beat their wings in the Amazonian forest they could trigger a hurricane thousands of miles away…’

There’s a brilliant Sci-Fi story about this that we used to read in English. The Butterfly idea is great – everything we do matters – we flap our small, individual wings through planning, innovation, tweaking and supporting in the classroom, and the combined effect in Westfield can be HUGE!

We started looking at our values as teachers, and how these were shaped to a certain extent by our own inspirational teachers:

Mrs Townsend was tough with high expectations. Consistently marking my work in incredible depth and explaining content in a way that made it really easy to understand gave me confidence in my ability to do well. Despite her hard exterior, she was incredibly caring and approachable; giving me personalised steps in order to achieve the A grade. ‘

‘Dr Bell, my Latin teacher, inspired me to love and excel in Latin. If it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t be teaching it now! He was the most learned teacher in the school and always made me feel confident in my own abilities. I loved visiting his house, filled with lovely Classics books, to revise and chat about life with him and my classmates. We are still in touch now and I hope will be for many years to come.’


The common denominator was always the belief that teachers gave us, and the extra mile they put in, and encouraged us to put in as well. This has indeed shaped us as the teachers that we are. Sometimes we need to re-connect with our values just to remind us of the importance of our job. Today, with all the students in, looking smart and sharp in their ties, it feels like it’s going to be a brilliant year!