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Book scrutiny: is this really a tool for support or monitoring?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Jan 17, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Is book scrutiny just an unfortunate term for a valuable process or an aptly named concept for an opaque practice that has negative connotations for teachers? One lead teacher believes that schools need to make the experience more transparent and less daunting and judgemental:

    ‘…But it is the phrasing that makes the concept so negative to me; it’s the idea of being ‘scrutinised’. We need to remove the negative stigma that the word ‘scrutiny’ brings with it. This is the first step towards making book checking a more worthwhile process for everyone.

    Sometimes, leaders don’t consider the implications of the terms used to refer to exercises like this. Words like ‘scrutiny’ instantly evoke a sense of being judged, and this doesn’t help anybody.

    Book scrutiny exercises shouldn’t feel like monitoring. When someone wants to look through what you’ve been doing, it’s only natural to feel judged. But rather than encouraging these feelings with their language choices, schools should aim for greater transparency.’

    Adam Riches is a specialist leader of education and lead teacher

    What are your views about book scrutiny? Have you found them a valuable and positive process? If yes/no, why?

  2. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    It can only be monitoring when done by senior managers with no training in your subject.
    sbkrobson and Jolly_Roger15 like this.
  3. Marshall

    Marshall Star commenter

    It's all about the culture and trust you encourage in your school. This takes time but often books are SENT to me to show improvement! This doesn't mean I ignore the rest - I still monitor but try to do it with the teacher and explain what I am looking for and then I get immediate response from them.
    Pomza likes this.
  4. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Supporting and monitoring who? Students or teachers?

    Book scrutiny is a Victorian English practice with no educational value to students or teachers.

    I would love to hear a justification of the existence of book scrutiny.
    Sir_Henry, BetterNow and agathamorse like this.
  5. sebedina

    sebedina Occasional commenter

    It is for scrutiny of the teacher... In my experience.

    In one academy we received "feedback" in confidential brown envelops !!!
  6. sebedina

    sebedina Occasional commenter

    feedback on our marking.
    schoolsout4summer likes this.
  7. Oldfashioned

    Oldfashioned Senior commenter

    A way to monitor staff and a stick to beat them with.

    The idea that the only way to show learning or progress is through an exercise book is laughable. My personal books at school would have got my teachers in trouble but I learned lots, I just didn't always write it down or finish all work set.
  8. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    Our books, we’re told, have to ‘evidence all the learning that goes on in the classroom’ including evidence of interventions and indications of verbal feedback, plus expected end of key stage results, so that anyone doing a scrutiny can see whether the child is on track. They’re supposed to indicate whether the task is independent, guided or supported, too. Someone should apparently be able to flick through a few books and see everything I do, including all differentiation, in them.

    Except I’m certain that’s not how teaching or learning works. A simple game with dice and counters can be far more effective than a page of sums; many lessons need no recordinh whatsoever. We’re simply spending a lot of time making sure someone else’s book scrutiny of my ability to teach is easier to do.
    lardylegs, drek, agathamorse and 4 others like this.
  9. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    I teach computing so I do not have books.
    I will never work in a school in which teachers use stamps with "Verbal feedback given"on them. I always ask this at interviews and end the interview if they answer with anything other than an unequivocal no.

    That whole marking/assessment/intervention loop is why English state education cannot attract or retain teachers.
  10. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    In this country, students' exercise books are seen like a policeman's notebook, as a written record of events, little to do with students' learning. The exercise book is a particularly British obsession, and its detailed marking a typically British fetish. I have known exchange teachers from US coming into school and being utterly baffled by such things, which they saw as pointless.
  11. adam_nichol

    adam_nichol Occasional commenter

    Sketching comments onto a book or piece of work, which is subsequently thrown in a bag and never looked at by the student immediately fails our own basic test of learning. If you scribbled some notes on the board, then took no notice of which students had even copied it down, you'd never be able to claim it was a successful lesson. Yet, we all stick with this ass-covering method to avoid blame (look, I wrote it here). Whilst I understand the fear and the need to ass-cover, it would be better to judge feedback on outcomes (ie: improvements in skills) and not output (ie: quantity of comments).
    For feedback to be effective, the student needs to focus not on what was missed (eg: SPaG was terrible) but on why it was missed and what they should do about it. Then, it becomes internalised, owned, and acted upon. Not shoved back in the bag.
    agathamorse, Sir_Henry and Alice K like this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    Unpopular view this, but I think these are necessary. You only have to look at how hard people work to catch up when they hear one is due.

    The problem isn’t checking that marking is being done - it’s making sure that marking is actually do able, and done to achieve something.
  13. ajrowing

    ajrowing Lead commenter

    One of the best students I have had the pleasure of teaching A-level to, thought that filing meant stuffing the worksheets or whatever from the lesson into his bag, and once it was overfull, he would empty the whole thing into a bin. I would have loved someone to try and scrutinize his folder, but sadly they never did.
    agathamorse likes this.
  14. ajrowing

    ajrowing Lead commenter

    P.S. Book scrutiny exists so that someone self important who is paid more than you or I, can feel like they are doing something useful with their days. Whereas we know that teaching students is much more useful and satisfying.
  15. Jamvic

    Jamvic Star commenter

    Why do they do this though?
  16. simonCOAL

    simonCOAL Occasional commenter

    Started as one, morphed into the other?

    ‘Scrutiny’. A harsh word.

    We’ve been looking at work samples for decades, but if we’re honest it’s more like a ‘cursory glance’ followed by “looks ok to me. Next”.
    agathamorse and Sir_Henry like this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    Well - mostly because every marking policy I’ve seen is *****, unworkable and doesn’t actually help the children.... :-(
  18. rjccollins

    rjccollins New commenter

    Book/work scrutiny is a complete waste of time. The senior leaders who undertake said scrutinies have no subject knowledge and ultimately are not qualified to comment on what is/isn't successful for specific classes and year groups. One size (of assessment) certainly does not fit all.

    Interestingly, the same senior leaders also have absolutely no qualifications in terms of observing lessons, especially in non specialist subjects.
  19. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    run by the same people who decided it was a good idea to mark in four colours, many countries around the world do not mark class books at all, they are the pupil's private jotter led by the teacher so don't evidence much at all except the ability to copy or parrot.
    Independent tasks, homework and tests however....
  20. simonCOAL

    simonCOAL Occasional commenter

    You have my sympathy.
    I’ve never worked in a place like that.

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