Feedback TIP for Marking

Over the years I have seen many letters and acronyms when it comes to providing pupils with written feedback. There are a range of them: T for targets; I for improvement; WWW (want went well) that is followed by EBI (even better if); and I have also heard of WIN meaning want went well, improve by and next steps. I personally always preferred WWW and EBI but my school uses “I”, however, my thinking began to shift last year during a book monitoring cycle. We were using ‘I’ to set improvement targets but many of the targets were asking pupils to underline titles and dates. This may be important to improve presentation of work but they are not going to drive forward pupil progress. This led me to question why we were even using “I”  when the word “progress” is being used by everybody and with everything. Therefore, my thinking was that “progress” needs to be consistently used by staff and pupils at every opportunity where pupils have an opportunity to improve. As a result I set out to find a new letter or acronym that would make “progress” common language with teachers and pupils. What is it? TIP.

TIP is a feedback acronym meaning “to improve progress”. The acronym itself reinforces the message and our understanding that giving someone a tip will help them to be better at something. We give people tips all the time to help them with work, play or to have an advantage in a competition. It also puts common language into practice, pupils hear us say “to make progress you need to do this…” or “think about this….” and it is now reinforced with written feedback in their work.  In addition, it has another powerful effect, it stops secretarial feedback. For example, using ‘EBI’ to say a title needs underlined does not improve progress, however, the teacher is not a fault because underlining the title will improve the presentation of the pupil’s work. Whereas,TIP puts focus on ensuring that the comment is directed at improving pupil progress, any other form of feedback will make less sense.

Even more important to providing specific feedback is providing students the time to respond to TIPs. There is no point in spending hours marking work and providing written feedback if pupils are not given the time to act on it. Many schools are calling these opportunities MAD Time (make a difference time) or DIRT (dedicated improvement reflection time). Both are very popular but I could not bring my self to introducing either of them whole school. To me MAD Time and DIRT sound as if responding to feedback is something of madness or as worthless as dirt? Instead, I introduced a neutral term – Development Time. However, this will change next year because a colleague of mine said that Development Time is fine but if we are to use progress at every opportunity and use common language than we should change it to TIP Time. It makes perfect sense, and although it will happen, there is a part of me that knows that TIP can also mean landfill.

So, for it to all work it is important that our TIPs support pupil progress and that dedicated TIP Time is available for pupils to act on written feedback so to make progress or the whole thing will be a pile of rubbish.