Marking is a massive part of teacher workload.
Marking is a massive part of the problem.
Live marking may be a solution.
It’s very difficult to get away from the debate around ‘teacher workload’ these days.
It never goes away – mainly because the workload that teachers face day-to-day never seems to go away either! It gets talked about a lot, but the workload itself never actually seems to lessen.
The problem of marking
Of course, all teachers expect to have to mark pupils’ work.
Pupils need feedback and parents expect to see it, but in recent years the expectations on teachers in terms of how they should mark pupils’ work have risen.
In some schools, these expectations have become absolutely ridiculous and the real problem is this: marking has become something that is done to create more data.
Indeed, a cynic might question who the marking is actually for.
Is the marking for the pupil? Is it there to help the pupil recognise their strengths and weaknesses; to help them improve, or to stretch and challenge them?
Or, is it really for the next learning walk, the next work scrutiny, or the next Head of Department, Senior Leader or Ofsted Inspector who observes the teacher’s lesson?
Has marking just become another method of scrutiny – yet more ‘evidence’ to measure.
Is live marking the solution?
Live marking is not a 100% solution for the issue of marking overload, but it does show a way forward and it does have huge potential.
Schools need to move away from the notion that teachers must show evidence of marking in pupils’ books. The most ridiculous ‘development’ yet has to be ‘verbal feedback stamps’ used by teachers to prove that feedback has been given.
If good feedback has been given, it will be obvious from a pupil’s work.
And strong feedback is the key.
But there is absolutely no proof that written feedback brings about a better response from pupils than verbal feedback.
In fact, often it feels to the teacher that it has been largely ignored and it’s the writing of this feedback that takes up so much time.
For live marking to work…
For live marking to work, you first have to create the conditions in the classroom for it to take place.
It tends to work best when the whole class is engaged on an extended piece of work (such as writing) – this lends itself to some subjects more than others, of course.
But, whatever the subject, live marking is only really feasible if the rest of the class has the focus to settle down and work independently (and quietly) while the teacher talks to individuals or a group of pupils.
Realistically, it might take a while to create such an environment in the classroom.
There might be some classes where it will always be difficult/nigh on impossible.
Live marking is not something that should be adopted en masse.
It should be used selectively and at carefully planned moments.
The odd interruption is fine, but if the teacher is constantly having to stop giving feedback and having dialogue with a pupil to deal with other issues or to answer questions, the live marking will essentially be dead in the water.