Marking is the bane of many a teacher’s life. Indeed, it’s marking that seems to takeover many teachers’ lives too. Look around a staff car park at a school at the end of the day and chances are you will catch sight of a flustered-looking individual filling up their car boot with a carrier bag, bag for life, or small suitcase crammed full of exercise books.
This, of course, is their marking load. The problem is that the more marking you do – and teachers are definitely expected to do more these days – doesn’t necessarily bring out better results, in terms of the impact it has on pupil progress. Indeed, there’s often little correlation or link at all to pupil progress.
Who are we marking for?
But the real problem is that ‘modern marking’ begs the question: Who are we marking for? Are we marking for heads of department or senior leaders? Are we marking for Ofsted inspectors? Work scrutiny? Parents?
Often it seems that last in a long list of audiences and reasons for our marking are the actual pupils themselves.
Sadly, marking has become another way to monitor teachers and another method of collecting evidence.
Of course, plenty of research has shown that one of the biggest drivers in improving pupil progress is feedback. However, this need not be in the form of detailed written feedback in pupil exercise books. There are ways to make feedback more efficient and effective. Here are some tips to minimise your marking.
Less is more
Marking everything in a very detailed way has little effect and certainly isn’t time-effective. It is better to focus on sections of work and mark these in more depth. Ultimately though the aim should be to reduce the actual need for marking, by cutting down the number of pupil errors. Re-teaching topics/skills where you notice many pupils are making similar errors makes more sense that writing out the same comments and feedback on multiple books.
Get the pupils to do the work
Self-assessment and peer-assessment both have much value. However, it is also true to say that they can be fraught with challenges and difficulties. It’s unlikely that all pupils will have the skills to assess accurately and the success of any peer or self-assessment activity is reliant on very careful preparation on the teacher’s part. Having said that, once the ‘setting up’ of self-assessment or peer-assessment is done, it is usually the case that pupils should be in a position to be able to make improvements before the work gets to you.
Giving responsibility to students and enabling them to work independently is the holy grail of marking. At the very least, students should be practised in proof-reading and making an attempt to address spelling, punctuation and grammar errors before books are handed in.
Use verbal feedback
Over time, it has become accepted that written feedback is the best type of feedback. Of course, this is ridiculous. It can be incredibly inefficient. Verbal feedback – moving around the room to give feedback in real time as students complete a task – can be far more effective. It’s here that common mistakes can be addressed before practice becomes permanent – and far more difficult to address and challenge. Marking books and giving feedback to pupils there and then during a lesson can be extremely powerful.
Whenever you are marking, you should question yourself. Think carefully about whether the way you intend to do it is going to be the most efficient and effective approach. It could well be that there are different strategies you could employ that will both minimise your marking load and have a greater impact on the progress pupils make at the same time.