Next Level Coaching: Only available to graduates of the 10WGT.
You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode number 13, and today I’m going to share with you my magic teacher moment story and how it can help your teen turn assessments from just something to get done, to having them actually be useful in achieving better results or in taking a smoother faster path to great results in every future assessment.
Well hello VIP’s! Welcome to the grisly world of assessment post-mortems. Well, actually it’s not grisly at all, but the alternative title for this would have been something like turning summative assessments into formative learning opportunities, and even I think that sounds pretty dull. Plus sometimes adding a bit of drama really helps things stick. In fact any kind of emotion attached to an event, makes it stick - and I’m going to talk about that in next week’s episode - sneak preview.
And really, what I’m giving you here is an actual sneak preview, a bit of a peek inside of Next Level Coaching. This post mortem type of coaching is one tiny piece of what I work with students on and we do detailed coaching on in there.
But the post-mortem name really suits the situation.
Because most students, once an assignment, a speech, an exam or whatever the assessment is, once it is done and they’ve had the result back, what do they generally want to do? They want to bury it.
They don’t want to look at it again. They don’t want to re-read it.
Either because they got a great mark - and that likely took hours, days, weeks of writing, editing and proof reading to produce - so they have those feelings of happiness and pride, and perhaps their self-confidence increases, AND often, a huge wave of relief.
Like “Thank goodness all those hours of drafting, editing, cutting, re-editing again, proofreading… they were at least worth it for the result.”
And usually, by this time, there is something else on the to-do list and so it’s just a case of move on and get onto the next task that’s looming.
That’s how I see students bury a completed task when it’s gone well.
And then there’s the situation when it hasn’t gone so well. Maybe they got what they felt what an okay result, or maybe it was disappointing. And notice I choose those words carefully. Because what one student is super-pleased with, could be okay to another and disappointing to another. Or, you might think that their result is perfectly good, great even. But they were aiming for something higher.
So they want to bury that experience and move on.
Or, here’s the third scenario I see. Where you as the parent know your teen is capable of more, and you wish they could see it and believe it too, but they are ‘happy’ sitting at whatever the grade is they just got. I say ‘happy; in inverted commas because often, deep down, it is more like resignation. They think they are happy to stay at their current grade or level and tell themselves they don’t want to aim for more, because of the perceived risk of failing, or because they just don’t believe they’ll get it. I hear students say - or more likely, think things like, “oh I’m just a B / C grade student”. And I used to think this. I don’t ever think I said it out loud but I definitely used to think of myself as a B+ student. I was a hard worker, I wanted the A’s, but in terms of what I was getting, not what I was capable of getting, I was a solid B+ student.
And when this is the situation, like they just want to get a pass mark, you’re there wishing they were either more confident or more motivated to aim higher for themselves. Not necessarily for the number or letter on the paper, but for what that means for them. More options and opportunities in their next steps, more confidence and self-belief, more celebrations and moments of success for themselves.
But as long as they got the mark they’d resigned themselves to, they’re (here are the quote marks again) ‘happy’ and the whole thing is forgotten about.
But, I don’t want them to bury that assessment.
No matter what the result.
I want us to do a post mortem on it. Open it up and look inside.
Figure out the cause of death, or cause of success!
Whether we’re going to find unicorns, rainbows and… care bears - they seem to have made some sort of come back lately - not sure what that is about, but I like it.
Or whether we’re going to find storm clouds and weeds.
Either way, we want to know!
We want to know what got your teen marks AND why they missed marks.
I remember a student telling me about the A they got for their latest Physics assignment. And after the celebratory and congratulatory wishes, I got straight to the important question. You know me, I don’t skirt around the important stuff - and I asked - Do you know why you got it?
What exactly meant you hit those criteria?
And he was very honest and told me
‘No’ he wasn’t totally sure.
So that’s what I encourage you to ask your teen. Whatever the results.
On a scale of 1 -10 how clear are they on what got them that result? Could they explain exactly where they got or missed marks - and why.
And that is something I really encourage students to submit for coaching on our coaching calls.
I will sometimes have students or parents say to me, they haven’t really got any assessments they’re working on right now, so they’re not requesting coaching.
And tell them there is never a time when students don’t have something they can be coached on. To go find a previous completed exam or assignment and we’ll go through exactly what got them the result they got.
So that students really REALLY understand how and why they are creating the success they’re achieving - and how they can continue to do it, maybe even make it more efficient to do so, by optimising it so they’re maintaining the results, but working and stressing less - and how to fix up the areas where they aren’t.
Exactly what is preventing them from hitting the top results, where they’re including things that aren’t needed, or how to really uplevel the detail, or synthesis or whatever it is that’s needed.
And here’s the key to doing this.
It comes down to one of the two words we hinge everything on in Next Level:
Those are HOW and WHY. And for reviewing completed tasks, it’s all about the WHY.
Why did they get that result?
Specifically what is it in their writing or the design or whatever it is that they’ve produced, what is it in there that has met certain criteria and where have certain criteria been missed?
In other words, what counted as them having achieved that criteria?
What was required that they didn’t have?
And what did they include that wasn’t needed, or didn’t earn them any credit?
Back when I was teaching in England, I had this one time, not long after I’d gotten into exam board work, and I was marking a full class of practice exams, they might’ve even been their mock exams actually. And this isn’t the magic teacher moment I mentioned in the intro - I will get to that in a bit - but it’s a really good example of this.
I think I got about half way through the papers and was seeing so many places where students were writing stuff in their answers that just wasn’t gaining them any credit. It might’ve been factually correct, but it wasn’t required. Either it was outside the scope of what the question was really asking, they were hedging their bets, trying to include extra info, or they were re-making a point they’d already made.
Because - something I’m always reminding my students of - you can’t get the same marks twice.
And so I got a couple of highlighters out and as I marked all the remaining questions, I highlighted in pink anything not needed.
Then the stuff that was actually getting them marks, I highlighted blue.
Luckily, I tend to mark by question, so I mark all of question 1 for the whole class, and then all of question 2, etc. I’ve been told at examiner training that it’s not the fastest way, but it’s just how my brain tends to work best, so it’s fastest for me. So when I say I was about half way through the marking, I was half way through each students’ paper, not half way through the class, and so I could do this for every student. And when you flicked through all the pages and pages of all their papers, the colours were about half and half.
So colourful and pretty to look at but not pretty in terms of their exam technique.
And then, in the next lesson I handed them all back and we spent the lesson dissecting all that blue and pink.
And I even had them have a go at it themselves on some of their earlier questions. Given what we’d just gone through, could they decide in an earlier question what parts they wrote got them marks and what parts were wrong or just not needed?
Now, if you try to share this with your teen, and I can tell you, I have this as an ongoing challenge with even my coaching students, so even those of you who have teens in the 10WGT or in Next Level, listen up here…
They may well say, or certainly be thinking… well, what’s the point of knowing how I can improve that answer or that assignment, or that report, or essay. It’s not like I’m going to get that exact same question again, or that the teacher is going to re-mark it again.
And they’re right.
They aren’t going to get that exact same exam question, they won’t write the same essay again. Or at least it’s highly unlikely. And that’s where I want to make a really clear distinction.
This is not about exactly what to write differently. It’s about the skills, the strategies, the techniques of dissecting questions and how to respond to them along with aligning that to mark schemes and criteria. It’s about the universal skills that can be applied to any subject and any type of assessment. It’s not about how to write a better answer to that exact question. Instead the important skills that can truly be carried forward to all future tasks are things like figuring out what really counts as detailed versus discerning - and why. Understanding whether they really did cover all 3 steps of analysis and doing it clearly and succinctly AND with sophistication and detail. It’s about knowing how to use the wording of a question to mentally predict the mark scheme. And knowing what types of contextual information is not required in an essay introduction, or how to make a conclusion do more than just recap the 3 key points in their body paragraphs. And use these strategies for ANY task, topic, or subject.
And THAT is what brings me to my magic teacher moment. Of course, there have been a few in my time, but this one is exactly what this podcast episode is all about.
I was teaching a Y11 class in a Sydney school and I’d had them do a practise exam which was an essay response from a past paper, and then marked it, and this was the lesson where I’d handed it back to them.
And as you have probably guessed by now, it wasn’t just handed back, they look at their mark and then we moved on. I’d anonymised and photocopied particular paragraphs or sections of different students responses,so yes, they got their mark and my specific feedback, but most importantly, we spent the whole lesson, breaking down the wording of the different criteria on the mark scheme, relating that to ways that some students had totally nailed it - with those photocopied examples of how, showing ways some students hadn’t and the critical differences to those that had, and basically getting them skilled in then finding examples in the other anonymised items or in their own writing where:
a) they had nailed a criteria
b) had missed it - and for what reason or what they would require to uplevel it
c) where they’d included things that weren’t earning them any credit.
And about two thirds of the way through this lesson, one student slapped both her hands flat on her desk and said ‘Miss’ - and so of course I was like ‘uh-oh, what is she going to say?’
And she said “Miss. This is GOLD.”
And I was at first surprised, because like I say, most students DON’T want to do this whole exercise. But then when I replied with ‘Oh, okay! Good!’ and we got into a bit of a conversation, it was another moment that showed me just how little students are really taught any of this, and how valuable it really is to them.
Now, I know that the perfect ending to that story would’ve been that that evening I got home and decided to launch Rock Solid Study and I started creating the 10 Week Grade Transformation program, but unfortunately it’s not as romantic as that. It took me another couple of years of being hit over the head with these moments as I taught these skills whenever I could fit it in, used them in my tutoring and eventually, eventually figured out that this was where I could really help students in the biggest way.
And so here we are, here I am doing that.
So, if you’d like your teen to LEARN these skills, get trained by me in the 10WGT, then go check that out at the Rock Solid Study website and click on the ‘Program’ menu tab or, if they’re a 10WGT graduate and they’re not already with us in Next Level Coaching where we action and apply everything and really uplevel their independence and optimise the way they’re using these skills, then send me an email email@example.com and we’ll send you the details.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how your teen can DO a post-mortem on any task, exam or assignment they’ve already completed, and more importantly why it’s so important to do them AND how this process will help them to complete every task in future more clearly, competently and successfully.
Remember, I’m taking your questions at the moment for our once a month Q&A episodes, so keep those coming: support@ rocksolidstudy.com. I’ve had some really good ones already.
Have a fantastic week, I hope it’s full of rainbows and care bears and other wonderful things, and I’ll see you back here next week.