Even before my school received training on the JCT cluster day I was keen to introduce the ‘features of quality’ to students to see their reaction to the language used.
I’ve been an advocate for the use of success criteria in teaching for years. When I was involved in training student teachers I advocated their use for development of independent learners, and to promote student voice in the classroom.
Using the features of quality directly from www.jct.ie I’ve compiled a key list for the next time I set about using them in this way again.
1. Prepare students by mentioning the grade descriptors before giving out the features of quality
I asked students where they were aiming for in the first class of introducing the features of quality. A high proportion said exceptional or above expectations. I always teach aspirationally but I knew most students were going to end up disappointed. Therefore, I’d explain that if they completed the investigation task to the level I’d been teaching, they’d achieve ‘in line with expectations’. Since i’ve pointed this out, students are much more perceptive to the descriptors and are more realistic about where they sit on the scale.
2. Break down the meaning of command words with the students
My students struggled to successfully match their work to the correct command word. When reflection time was given, they thought they’d explained in their work when at times they’d only described or made other similar errors. This created more work for me when marking the task.
3. Highlight examples of good practise through the task
I used my phone and a scanning app to capture excerpts of work in the class as I was seeing it. For example, a student created a superb method in line with the sample shown, and had used all the guidance criteria I’d provided. I scanned this, sent the pdf to my email, and displayed it on a board for all to see. Within minutes of displaying the example the quality of methods being produced by others was improving. Students were making improvements to their methods using what they’d seen from the example. Best of all this made my marking easier!
4. Build in DIRT (Directed improvement and reflection time) once the task is marked
I found this invaluable to cutting the time it takes a group to complete subsequent tasks. I gave 20 minutes of class time, asked students to respond to my feedback, and make the improvements I asked for on their marking stickers. Students became more confident, especially in graph drawing. Generally I’m not repeating the same basic points – such as don’t forget to label axes etc.
I’m sure as this first-year group progress through the cycle, the focus and lessons to be learnt from using features of quality will progress with them. They’ve been given success criteria under these headings for assessment for learning tasks since their introduction, and in general students are motivated by the approach because they can see where they need to improve.