Target and Symbol Marking

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Feedback.

What is it and how does it work?

Target marking was alluded to during the explanation of personalised feedback as part of Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time tasks (D.I.R.T). Instead of writing out comments (often with great similarity) over and over again in students’ books use symbols or targets instead.

As you go through the books and find yourself about to write a comment suggesting how an aspect of the work could be improved and through what means (remember, good feedback should progress learning), instead of committing pen to paper in the book, make a note of the key issue on a scrap of paper or directly onto a PowerPoint slide (if you are at a computer or device) and assign it a symbol or code, such as ‘T1’ (for Target 1). Write T1 next to the piece of work in the book instead. Continue through the books, identifying issues and assigning them symbols in the same way. The aim is to construct a list of major overarching issues for learning and not an endless scroll of minor points. You may end up with T1 to T3, or perhaps as many as T7 ot T8 depending on the nature of the task and the support required for the group. However, reading through the work and leaving a T code and typing up the full comment once on a PowerPoint slide should take a fraction of the time as writing the comment in each book, and achieve the same value. In addition if you save and keep the T codes on a slide organised by task/topic, you actually have a list of ‘common errors’ that you could use with a different class in the future as part of a modelling activity and challenge them to avoid the same mistakes previous students had made.

As an example you may have three T codes:

  • T1 – Use a wider range of sentence lengths to help develop the piece.
  • T2 – Each time a new character speaks, ensure you start a new paragraph.
  • T3 – Use full stops and capital letters correctly

In the following lesson these are displayed, if you wish you could get a class to focus on their T code/s and ask them to write the relevant improvement point in their book next to the work. They then are given time to act upon it.

Some teachers and subject teams even devise what appear at first glance to be generic Target banks, however they function in such a way that they can used to provide very specific feedback at the right moment to any given individual – again just noting the target code on work. The example below is by RojoResources on (purchase required for original file).

Target setting for secondary students | Tes

This example from Humanities is by Victoria Hewitt/Mrs Humanities from her post ‘Mrs Humanities shares…’. Similarity there is a set of Department wide target codes that cover pretty much all eventualities. The codes all fit with a key to support communication with students (by written work, skills, Geography, History and Thinking targets).

Modifying the targets as questions

An alternative approach is to create questions for improvement rather than more generic task targets. Questions that you expect an answer to, either through peer discussion or written directly on work. Quite easily you could then use ‘Q codes’ instead of T codes (Q1, Q2, Q3…and so on). If approaches like these are used regularly with consistent expectations then students become accustomed to what they mean and will expect the associated information from you and the time to act on it.

Associated further reading and references:

  • ‘Chapter 5: Feedback’, in Allison, S. and Tharby, A., 2017. Making Every Lesson Count. Carmarthen: Crown House.

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