Judging the Quality of Student Work

Book monitoring, work scrutinies, compliance checks, quality assurance… At least once a term at most schools, there will usually be some sort of formal analysis of student work – often undertaken by middle or senior leaders. Spotting where staff either have or haven’t followed agreed policies is easy enough. However, assessing the overall quality of student work is trickier.

With that said, however, most teachers obviously have a significant amount of implicit knowledge when it comes to understanding what decent work looks like. Instinctively, within our specialisms, we can often swiftly tell if what’s presented to us is any good. So I suppose it’s really about precision: what is it that precisely leads us to make the judgements we do about the quality of student work? I’ve written down a few of my thoughts below and suggested some further reading. I’ve also created a list of questions to guide discussions – click here to access it.

1. Accuracy

Students who are unable to write with functional accuracy are hugely disadvantaged, both within and beyond the classroom. Some students don’t possess the knowledge and skills to write accurately and others don’t bother to (properly) proofread their work and then correct the errors they’ve made. Ideally, there should be evidence in books of poor writing and bad habits that have been tackled – erratic capitalisation, rogue apostrophes, misspelt words, and so on.

Further reading: What to do about literacy, by David Didau

2. Vocabulary

A range of precisely used Tier 2 and Tier 3 words should be evident. Possessing a wide vocabulary is crucial to academic success, so it’s reasonable to expect students to have correctly used a variety of ambitious words in their work that, ordinarily, they wouldn’t use (or encounter) in their everyday conversations.

Further reading: Vocabulary Development Reading List, by Alex Quigley

3. Presentation

Good quality presentation is no guarantee of good quality content. However, neat handwriting, clearly drawn diagrams and an absence of doodling are all pretty reliable proxies for judging the extent to which students care about their work.

Further reading: Handwriting – the Tucha Experiments, by Sarah Barker

4. Quantity

In the same way that good presentation is no guarantee of good quality content, neither is quantity. And it’s a tricky one because what equates to a ‘reasonable’ amount of work across a fixed period of time differs from subject to subject – as does the nature of the work itself. So, with this in mind, I think it’s useful to consider how the overall quantity of work produced compares across different classes and pupil profiles within the same subject area. It’s also worth checking the extent to which work is either completed or routinely left unfinished.

Further reading: It takes time to write, by Andy Tharby

5. Curriculum

There should be evidence that students have made progress through the curriculum and, as such, that they have accumulated powerful knowledge that they are able to reflect upon and apply. There should be clear links between work generated over a number of different lessons and across different units.

Further reading: Genericism’s children, by Christine Counsell

6. Feedback

Providing feedback (verbal, whole-class, marking etc.) is a waste of time unless students meaningfully respond to it. Over time, the work students produce – if they’re actually acting on the feedback they receive – should improve in quality. Perhaps a good way to make a judgement on this is by comparing the books completed by students over the course of a whole term.

Further reading: Rethinking marking and feedback, by Tom Sherrington

Thanks for reading –



Find blog post on Four Examples of GCSE Whole-Class Marking Proformas here


 AQA Power and Conflict

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