‘Students should mark each other’s tests to improve grades’, says top school head

The Telegraph, 13.06.15, HMC member, David Lambon, Head of Ampleforth College, says students should mark each other's exam papers to think like examiners and improve their grades.

Students should mark each other’s homework and tests to help them think like examiners and improve their grades, the head of Ampleforth College has said.

David Lambon, who is the first lay headmaster at one of the UK’s top fee-paying Roman Catholic schools, said it is important that teenagers understand how they are assessed to improve their learning and results.

The school is devising a system where 16 and 17-year-olds grade each other’s coursework and exams to “help them understand what you have to do for an essay to make a grade A, B or C”, said Mr Lambon, in his first interview since taking over at the historic college last September.

“If you can teach them to understand what good or excellent looks like, then they have a much better chance to replicate that themselves,” he said.

“In order to improve students have to begin to understand how to think like an examiner. If they are able to do that, it helps them they know how to structure a good answer.”

While some may criticise a system that hands power to pupils to assess their own work and that of their peers, Mr Lambon said that it was important for young people to scrutinise what they and their classmates are learning.

“I like children to be able to evaluate their own performance because a key element in the work place is to be able to say how well have I done in this project and what do I need to do a little bit better,” he said.

“It is not just a matter of getting knowledge across to children is about teaching them how they should be learning and how they should engage with their own progress.”

While teachers will still have the last word on grades, students should be encouraged to assess exams as well as homework, he added. “It will across the board in every subject. Some subjects are easier to grade like physics or maths, but some are more difficult like politics or theology. They require greater skill and training.

“This current generation of children really like when you discuss things with them and help them understand. It is something of the psyche of 16 and 17 year olds: they like consultation, people involvement. Children in 2015, they don’t like to be dictated to, they want to discuss it and make it their own.”

As part of the move to involve students more fully in school life, they also now sit on interview panels for new staff. Although they are not given final say on hiring, senior staff seek their opinions on potential new recruits.

Until Mr Lambon took over the headship at Ampleforth, in North Yorkshire, the school had been run by Benedictine monks since it was established in 1802.

In making the decision to appoint a lay head, it said that while it remained committed to its religious ideals and standards, it needed a leader “able to develop these in today’s exacting educational environment”.

Mr Lambon, who was previously the head of St Malachy’s College, in Belfast, said that starting at the school had been a “bit of a whirlwind”, but described being part of the monastic community as “incredible” and said he had been supported in making changes at the school.

“They could have had a monk to continue as headmaster but they thought it would be good to bring someone from my side,” he said. “They thought it they had taken a monk from the financial department or other parts of the community it would have weakened their work.

“They wanted to bring someone in from the professional community as a headmaster to run the school. It has allowed many of the monks to do to focus on the spiritual aspects.”

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