DIRT in the classroom

Mike Lamb
28th November 2016 at 15:03

Subject Genius, Mike Lamb, DIRT in the classroom

Having spent hours of time marking essays into the evening I used to get very frustrated when my pupils would make the same mistakes over and over again. Despite my clear written feedback they just wouldn't spend the time considering it before completing their next piece of work. However something I quickly learnt in teaching is that if the pupils keep making errors it is often me that is the cause and not them. 

I started to ensure that my comments were more formative and subsequently asked the pupils to directly respond to questions and issues. I quickly realised that for the pupils to reflect, correct and improve required time and hence, at least once a week, they would spend 20 minutes improving their work after I handed it out at the beginning of a lesson. This time also allowed me to get around the class and verbally feedback to some pupils or scaffold others. 

Not only did this seem to be effective for the pupils but they seemed to appreciate the time to reflect. It allowed me to differentiate effectively as each pupil received their own target. By asking them to reflect in green pen they clearly evidenced their reflections and their folders therefore ticked that box in folder checks/observations. 

Subject Genius, Mike Lamb, DIRT in the classroom

As well as the individual feedback I often provide more generic feedback before they started their improvements if there were common errors and mistakes. That way we could also focus as a class on a specific skill (e.g. Developing evaluation points). It also offered a chance for pairs (which could be carefully chosen to support each other or for teaching pairs) to help each other or for me to read out high quality or exemplar work. 

When looking into different ways to feedback I recently discovered this process has a name! As often in teaching there is a catchy acronym for this simple process, called DIRT.   You can read more about using this technique here https://classteaching.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/marking-matters/ and there are even resources to help at TES online here https://www.tes.com/resources/search/?&q=dirt

Due to the fact that I had developed this technique to deal with a problem in the classroom I use it regularly and don't see it as a fad. However like everything in teaching I try not to use it unreservedly. For the process to be effective I believe it requires a good 15-20 minutes and needs to be an activity in itself. It also needs to be practised regularly by the pupils for it to be effective and quick. 

As such the main issue is that it takes up a significant amount of class time. I justify this in that I believe the pupils that show the most improvement through responding to feedback are the most successful. Therefore I believe the time is well spent however I would be interested to know what other teachers think?



Mike Lamb teaches biology and psychology at Hurstpierpoint College, Sussex.