I adore the idea of DIRT. Writing feedback that never gets looked at is absurd, and I love the “ethic of excellence” mentality. I’m struggling a bit with making it work for me right now, though.
This is my standard procedure.
I set and mark an exercise with a selection of problem types from the last 4 lessons.
I hand it back to the students. Their DIRT task is either to retry the question type they got wrong, or try my extension question in green pen.
I now have students doing individualised tasks right at the cusp of their understanding. Great.
Except.. how am I expecting them to successfully answer the questions? There’s been no additional explanation of the work to help them suddenly be able to answer this question that they couldn’t answer yesterday.
I’ve noticed a few students answering in green pen studiously and carefully; the only problem being what they’re writing is mathematically incorrect.
You can argue the comments I write are enough guidance for them, but I’ve found these fall into one of two traps
- For my top sets, the work is complex and the misconceptions they have are hard to explain without a full paragraph of writing. Even writing a paragraph isn’t ideal. What I really want is to talk to them, read their body language, give them a chance to ask questions before I set them off to have another go.
- For my lower sets, the average reading age is under 9. Teaching through the medium of writing comments in red pen is the most alienating thing I can do.
Plus the more I have to write, the more time-consuming doing DIRT is for me, and the less likely I am to do it frequently.
No one would argue the best way to teach new content is for kids to sit in silence reading your hastily scribbled comments. This seems even more crucial when you’re giving them work which you know they’re currently getting wrong, or alternately extension work which they’ve never seen before.
So, how to proceed? I’m going to experiment with prefacing DIRT work with a teacher-led explanation of the most common pitfalls, but I’d love to hear any other suggestions.