Blog Archive

Saturday 5 January 2019

DOT Marking - The approach in Science

We are all aware of the mantra - MARK, PLAN, TEACH (as well as it being the title of a very popular teaching and learning text right now!). The mark element often has the greatest impact when you move away from standard, generalised comments and towards personalised feedback.

DOT marking as a strategy, originated approximately five years ago as part of the EEF toolkit. Effective feedback can move learning forward by as much as eight months in some subjects (and with specific students), however it is one of the five key elements of Assessment for Learning. To quote Dylan Wiliam: "Providing effective feedback is very difficult. Get it wrong, and the students give up, reject the feedback, or choose an easier goal" (2011, p.119).

At Mangotsfield School, John Crozier and the Science department have been personalising their approach to DOT marking to close the feedback loop. Thank you specifically to John for taking the time to outline their strategy for our blog.

John writes:
We have based our dot-marking system on Bloom’s taxonomy.  We are focusing mostly on the skill of “application.” This is so that students can learn to use their science understanding in new ways, to answer more difficult problems and in turn become more independent. 
We are using modelling techniques to introduce students to a simple method for being able to use their science understanding to answer the problem.  We are aiming to increase student independence over time as they get better at the method.

We plan the tasks so that students have the opportunity to develop extended answers, then we use the coloured dot to tell them what level of science skill they have shown in their work.  

All students are then given a structured opportunity to improve their work (DIRT), in line with the skill they have shown.  In other words, the coloured dot also directs them to an improvement task that is appropriate to their achievement.  See attached slides for an example.  Students are given access to the teachers model answer where appropriate, to support their improvement work.

We are trying to encourage a “growth mindset” of aiming high and trying our best to answer difficult problems, and we are proud of the students efforts so far.  It’s still early days, but every teacher is introducing their classes to these tasks, and we are expanding the use of them as the year continues.  We have made a display in every classroom of our colour coding system, and we will be referring to this when students are completing the tasks.

So far we have seen an increase in the quantity of writing for 6 marks questions, and we are also finding that more students are considering the need to structure their answers more carefully.   With repeated practice, students are paying more attention to the teacher’s modelling.  The more able science students are becoming competent at embedding complex ideas to extend their answer, whilst science students who find it difficult are already showing more scientific understanding in their answers.  We expect that students will become more independent and need less modelling over time.  We hope students will learn to feel accomplished and successful when it comes to writing extended answers in science, as they get more practice.

For other ideas on effective feedback, click on the link below to an excellent blog on practical strategies by Harry Fletcher-Wood: