After looking at the marking criteria for the King Lear essay, and adding a few other things I find useful like SOLO and 'golden quotations', we created this:
The natural successor to this lesson was inspired by my love of felt-tips. Banking on all of Y13 actually doing their homework for the first time in over a year, it was a bit of a gamble, but one that miraculously paid off. However, my shock at every one of them completing their assignment was short lived. Predictably, despite their initial enthusiasm and contributions to the idea of marginal gains in the first place, when I asked if anyone had actually used the wheel to plan/check/improve their essay, the answer was a resounding...
So, the task was to peer assess using the wheels. Sometimes peer assessment can lack focus, here it really did not. Not only did they enjoy this (few students can resist the lure of multicoloured ink) but the responses were really perceptive. The idea is dead simple: using the colours of the wheel for your feedback, highlight strengths and write marginal gains targets on a partner's work.
After swapping essays a couple of times, students then had to act on the feedback in green pen. This is a whole-school policy designed to show students responding to feedback and showing progress. It too is a really simple tweak and works very well at every level, creating a clear learning dialogue between students and teacher (or student and student in this case).
Of course, one of the advantages of well directed peer assessment is that as a teacher you don't have to mark it yourself, and yet the students are still making progress. In this case, it was very clear to students where their strengths lay and where improvements were needed.
So much marking is very time consuming and then not acted upon. Frequently you find yourself writing the same thing on essay after essay (year after year). Well, another slight adjustment you can make to ensure students are acting on your feedback is not marking the actual essays themselves. If you jot down the comments, questions and targets on a separate piece of paper then you don't have to repeat anything. When you have finished marking, you give the essays back along with the feedback and the students have to work out which bits of feedback belong to each essay.
Gains all round. Teacher does less work, students do more. Students engage with the feedback and also get far more feedback than you would write on one essay because they are reading everyone's feedback, not just their own.