Following our recent mid-course exams, students have been asking ‘where can I improve?’ or ‘what can I do to get a better mark?’
Even with written and clear feedback, and verbal explanations by markers, it can be very helpful to spend time with individual students in helping them target one or two areas for improvement. It is best to avoid repetitive sessions of teacher lecturing by incorporating active learning strategies as part of the process. This increases confidence for students by identifying where their written expression is working, and decreases negativity by externalising blame onto the marker. Remembering that the HSC is marked positively – scripts are rewarded for what is on the page – rather than negatively – losing marks for not doing something correctly.
Here’s how we worked through our Paper 1 – Area of Study: Discovery style responses:
- after providing feedback, students are asked to identify what they have included in their extended response. Most chose to highlight
- this process forces students to evaluate their writing and most will immediately notice weaknesses and be pleased with their achievement
- I then collect and scrutinise their scripts and make specific notes for suggestions when we meet. For example, this student has identified evaluative language with evidence:
- in our discussion, I explain that evaluation should be explicit, and an explanation or elaboration of evidence needs specific vocabulary. In class, I promote the creation of a synonym word bank to decrease repetition when discussing key concepts and effects of features.
- when individualising the feedback for this students, I would suggest other terms such as
clever: proficient, intelligent, wise,smart, talented or
apt: fitting, suitable, relevant, ideal or
challenge: question, confront, object
to encourage students to make explicit links to, in this case, the director’s purpose. I might include these suggestions, or ask the student what could be included to increase the clarity of their explanation:
Yes, I know there are software programs where you can record your voice with suggestions, or edit a file BUT I prefer to work with the student in collaboration. This is empowering for both of us, and an important process of ownership for everyone: I am teaching and guiding, and they are learning how to identify areas for improvement.