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*Editor's Note: The author was featured at CanvasCon Europe. You can watch her presentation below.

I had a problem. As a teacher of Religious Studies, the sheer volume of students I teach meant that, were I to mark exercise books using traditional methods, I would easily clock up an extra 20 hours a week. I have spent the past year using Canvas to enable me to provide more (volume and frequency), higher quality and personalised feedback to students. Using features such as rubrics, outcomes, collaborative documents and quizzes, and by requiring students to photograph and upload their written work, I have been able to encourage and support the progress of my students much more effectively than before.

I have been able to demonstrate, using Ofsted descriptors, outstanding practice in marking and feedback that goes beyond what I could ever have achieved, practically speaking, by taking in student books. Students are able to really engage proactively with and take responsibility for their learning; grades are available asynchronously and students frequently improve and re-submit work. The impact on ‘feed forward’ through marking in this way has been impressive, and I believe that the culture and relationships between teacher and student are improving, too.

I have also provided a program of CPD in the practical and pedagogical use of Canvas. In these sessions I have demonstrated and given instruction in the setting up and use of a range of features. The benefits on using Canvas, alongside those described above, include the potential for collecting grade and meta data, which can inform future planning and self-evaluation of teaching and learning strategies.

In order to ‘go digital’ with marking, I make the following recommendations:

- Speak to colleagues about their own departments’ needs and helped them to find solutions that will work for them. A ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t usually work, so tailored dialogue and support are essential.

- Get school Leadership are on board, and ensure that digital marking and feedback strategies are reflected in school policies; no-one wants to be doubling up on marking just to satisfy a book scrutiny. As long as practice reflects policy, there should be no problems.

- Frequently demonstrate what you expect from students, and show parents at open evenings, where to find grades and how the assignments work. It takes time for everyone to get used to new ways of working. Insist that work is submitted digitally, but don’t sanction students who get a bit confused at first (as long as they are being proactive about resolving issues).


Keep learning,

Kathryn Taylor, M.Ed.
Subject Leader for Philosophy, Religion and Ethics, Chesham Grammar School (England)

Chesham Grammar School