Mark Young has shared the work he has led in the English department on assessment. Feedback from the PDC marketplace at the end of the term was that these strategies were some of the most well-received and that many staff were keen to apply them to their own subjects.


The English department have been discussing how both formative and summative feedback can have more impact with our students whilst not adding to our workload. Our subject naturally lends itself to large amounts of marking that relies on reading every word from the  student.

Therefore, we have been looking at ways to improve our practice using ideas from Ross Morrison McGill’s Mark. Plan. Teach. One of his key ideas is ‘The yellow box’ where teachers are advised to:

  • Choose one area of a student’s work to mark
  • Draw a yellow box around it
  • Mark it well and in detail, offering feedback that is specific.

The feedback ‘zooms in’ on one area to improve and helps focus the student on this highlighted section of work for TuT.


We are hoping that this ‘new’ system of marking will result in less marking but more specific feedback.

One of the most important aspects of the system is to ensure that the teacher reads the TuT and insist that the student does the work again if it is sloppy or half-hearted. Ideally, this ‘checking’ is formative (completed within the lesson) to reduce workload.

  Strengths and areas for development

  • Students find the system easy to understand
  • Less questions from students regarding EBI and TuT
  • Improvement in quality of TuT
  • Less marking time

Problems we are encountering are:

  • It’s not always possible to look at 30 or more pieces of TuT during a lesson
  • Some classes are prone to being off task if the teacher is talking to other students
  • Some content might have to be taught again before TuT to ensure students have the requisite knowledge.

However, these issues are not unique to this system and if TuT is to be meaningful to ensure student progress then it might be necessary to mark this additional work (especially the first few times to ensure that the quality is good).

 Different applications

We have developed our own ways of using the box system to suit the strengths and weaknesses of our classes and our differing styles of teaching, giving feedback and application of TuT. The images overleaf present some of these applications of the system.

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