The National Academy for Educational Leadership Wales contributes to the development of the professional capabilities of current and aspiring leaders across the education system in Wales.
Our Innovation Grant can be accessed through the Innovation Pathway and is also encouraged among those who attended the Innovation Series. The 2022 Innovation Series explored ‘Digital Innovation’ and participants submitted project ideas to improve digital opportunities within their schools.
We spoke with Dylan Lewis, Curriculum Coordinator at Pontarddulais Comprehensive School, to find out how he heard about the Innovation Grant by attending our third series of Innovation workshops. Here, he was able to learn about the benefits of developing and progressing educational leadership through our Innovation Pathway.
After successfully applying for the Innovation Grant, Pontarddulais Comprehensive School used the funding to develop digital assessment processes within the school. As the world around us grows more and more digitally inclined every day, it is important for schools to adapt and make their processes digital too. Therefore, having digital rubrics (a scoring guide used to evaluate performance) in place for teachers has become essential in helping them to streamline their evaluation and marking processes. Dylan explains: “Digital formats enable quick, accurate marking as teachers can easily reference the criteria and level descriptions while evaluating learners work. In addition, digital rubrics can also be used to provide feedback to learners in a more timely and constructive manner.”
Pontarddulais Comprehensive School wanted to address the accuracy and time efficiency of their teachers’ assessment marking. By improving this area with digital innovation, the school hoped that their teachers would be able to give more meaningful feedback without creating an excessive workload for staff. Dylan elaborates: “We proposed to use the Innovation Grant to create digital tools that allow our teachers to easily provide both written and audio feedback to learners on specific aspects of their work, such as organisation, content and presentation. As a result, learners will be more informed on how to better improve their skills and performance.”
Once Pontarddulais Comprehensive School received the Innovation Grant they wasted no time getting started on their innovation journey. In previous years, the school had been using Teams and Moodle, even more so during the pandemic in order to distribute and collect work from the learners, and it was during this time that the school discovered that the evaluation process was too long and the feedback lacked detail. Solving this issue became a top priority and to achieve this, the school created a simple plan that involved scheduling a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) session to explain how rubrics work and how they can be used in conjunction with assignments. Following the demonstration, all teachers received a help sheet and a set of tutorials to guide their use of rubrics.
The Innovation Grant supported this digital innovation as it allowed Pontarddulais Comprehensive School to pay for staff release, which allowed the school to gather their thoughts and develop a clear understanding of how rubrics work and how to effectively set up a rubric within an assignment. Dylan explains: “The funding was primarily used to cover the costs of supply teacher cover, ensuring that staff members could be released at specific times to attend training sessions and collaborate on the rubric development process.
This support proved invaluable, as it allowed us to effectively implement and evaluate the use of rubrics in our teaching practices and led to a more streamlined assessment process which ultimately led to improved learner learning outcomes.”
Pontarddulais Comprehensive School was lucky to encounter very few issues during the project and even had remaining budget left to release staff members to create video guides for future learning and onboarding. One of the main challenges the school encountered was that some departments found that using a rubric was too restrictive. However, the school was able to jump this hurdle by addressing the issue and encouraging teachers to provide additional comments alongside the rubric, allowing them the flexibility to expand on their feedback and provide more personalised responses to individual learners. This proved successful and the digital innovation has been received positively by both teachers and learners. Teachers also benefitted as the digital innovation provided meaningful professional development and also fostered cross-curricular collaboration between leaders across the school.
Seven months after the school’s digital innovation journey began, they are still reaping the positive results. Dylan confirms: “The success of the rubrics in the Humanities AoLE has been so great that the digital innovation has now been shared across the whole school, benefiting staff at all levels and helping to reduce marking workload whilst simultaneously improving the quality of feedback to learners.”
Now that Pontarddulais Comprehensive School’s digital innovation has been adopted across the entire school, they have big plans for the future of this project. To foster and maintain a true innovative culture in the school with other departments using the digital rubrics, several strategies have been implemented:
Part of our Innovation Pathway is looking towards the future, and it is easy to see how schools across Wales can adopt the digital innovation fostered by Pontarddulais Comprehensive School. One of the most significant impacts of the rubric-based feedback approach is that it ensures learners receive consistent and structured feedback across their subject areas, promoting a more cohesive and aligned approach to teaching and learning. This consistency not only helps learners to understand their strengths and areas for improvement more clearly but also enables teachers to identify patterns and trends in learner performance, allowing for more targeted and effective interventions. In addition, this approach has also been highly beneficial for teachers, as they no longer have to spend a significant amount of time thinking about a marking system for each assignment. Instead, department heads and subject leaders can set rubric apps that all teachers within the subject area can use, saving valuable time and promoting a more streamlined assessment process. Dylan further elaborates: “From our experience with this project so far, it is clear to see how other schools would benefit from adopting a similar system. Teachers who were once unfamiliar with rubrics now fully understand them and have confidence using them, allowing all teachers to see the benefits.”
Over the years, we have supported many schools in Wales on their innovation journey, Dylan comments: “Our digital innovation journey was made very easy with the help and support of the National Academy for Educational Leadership Wales. The funding allowed us the opportunity to explore new ideas, so I would highly recommend other schools applying for the Innovation Grant so we can all have the chance to develop educational leadership in our schools.”