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Leadership & innovation., Teaching & Learning

What does progress actually look like?

Progress Blog

In education and even more so as teachers, we hear the term progress all the time; all students need to make progress, progress checks, planning for progress, data informing progress, progress through effective feedback and so on… but what does progress actually look like in day to day classroom practice and how can we measure it? As I’m currently developing a new approach to teaching and learning at Tavistock College, welcoming a long overdue move away from graded observations (you can read more about this here) understanding this is crucial in taking teaching and learning forwards.

The implementation of this new strategy will include the delivery of CPD for all staff, led by colleagues who are exceptionally proficient within this area of assessment. Planning a series of CPD workshops in collaboration with teachers is an exciting prospect and the focus of these will be progress through; assessment, questioning, marking/written feedback and data informed planning for learning.



This mini blog focuses on student progress as a result of effective marking and written feedback, you can read more in-depth on my approach to marking here. In order to fully understand this context we must ask: what does marking look like when it’s effective in securing progress for all learners? So the overarching question has to be: how often do you set aside time in your lessons for dedicated improvement and reflection time (DiRT) and what is the ratio between the time you have taken to mark a students work in comparison to the time they have taken to formulate a response. Or to look at it another way, how long do you set aside for the students to mark their work and do they know how to make progress following this?

DIRT - CPD (1)

We have to be mindful that DiRT doesn’t become superficial or even a token gesture to satisfy a school marking policy. Insisting students simply acknowledge your marking or perhaps leave a comment to say they understand isn’t good enough and doesn’t demonstrate progress. Effective DiRT will aid students progress and doesn’t have to be on every piece of work that every student does. If that was the case how would we ever have a life! Being smart is the key. Here’s just one example of many variations I see in our school, so lets take this piece of extended writing from an English lesson to make the point:



At point (a.) the teacher has annotated the text and highlighted the assessment objectives of which the work undertaken has fulfilled, giving an overall grade of a D.  There’s nothing unique or different here than you would expect to find in any classroom across the country. However, it’s what follows that really matters the most; the student is now given the time to apply the criteria from the assessment objective sheet and rewrite the text. At point (b.) with the text remarked, we can clearly see the student has now achieved a grade B. Moreover, the student has driven the change leading to this rapid improvement, this is maximum impact diagnostic marking allowing the student to clearly make progress. Therefore it’s worth considering how DiRT is used effectively to positively impact upon student progress. I would argue that allocating a generic segment of time may not always be the best approach in all lessons for DiRT. Depending on prior learning, all students will need varying amounts of time in order to make progress, therefore this approach has to be differentiated in it’s structure. This is just one quick assessment ‘take away’ which form part of our CPD. I hope you find it useful.




About garysking

Deputy Headteacher - leader of Teaching & Learning. Change maker and believer in quality first teaching.



  1. Pingback: Homework – Does it really make a difference? | Gary King - January 30, 2015

  2. Pingback: What does progress actually look like? | teaching knowledge and creativity - March 17, 2016

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