It would appear that marking is becoming the next “big thing” in education discussions. It is an aspect of teaching and learning that everyone values, yet, because it can take inordinate amounts of time to do, becomes the object of significant detestation.
There are multiple messages abounding about the amount, type and purposes of marking, with school interpretations sounding as if they are requiring over and above that which may be necessary or useful. There should be a clear view of the impact of such edicts on those whose role it is to effect them.
If the child can’t read what the teacher has said, nor has the time to engage with the feedback, there is a question about the purpose of marking.
As a class teacher, if there was a need to check specifics of knowledge, such as spellings or tables, or other number facts, or remembering key facts from subjects, a straightforward test could be marked by a peer using a coloured pencil, then skim-marked for accuracy.
Where a longer piece of work required marking, I sometimes adopted the idea of deep marking the first 100 words, then skimmed the rest, to be able to both mark for spellings and grammar (Ist 100) then for content, order and organisation and interest. It did provide the necessary feedback to the children to correct spellings and grammar and sometimes redraft (identified) aspects of the writing.
Some schools use symbols to support marking, well known to the learners and the adults. For younger, less sophisticated readers, this can be helpful. If overt and articulated to parents, they too can understand the system.
I argue that it is possible to fine tune marking to individual needs, by having a flip out sheet at the side of the exercise book on which “carry forward” targets are written. These can be outcomes of marking, so that, once the page is turned, the target is still easily available.
The essentials from that post
Can you remember the personal targets for each child, especially if you have thirty children in a class and maybe, in a secondary school you take a dozen different classes in a week.?
If you set targets, where are they?
On a display or interactive board?
Inside or on the outside cover of an exercise book?
On a card in the middle of the table?
Are they easily available to support in-passing conversations within a lesson?
How often do they get reviewed- half termly/termly?
If a child has three specific learning targets for a half term, they may then have eighteen targets over a year. Does this support dynamic progress?
Importantly, where are they when you want to mark the books?
- Put personalised targets on a fold out slip, at the edge of the exercise book, so that during the lesson, the child and the teacher can be aware of the specific targets.
- This can prompt conversations specific to that child, support the learner’s self-evaluations and also support teacher oral and written feedback, as the slips can be folded out during marking.
- Targets can be achieved , then become non-negotiable in future work, with new ones added.
This approach also supports record keeping, as the slip forms an on-going record of achievement.
The big question is usually of volume. It is more the case today that Primary teachers have 30 English and 30 maths books to mark each day; I know that Secondary may be more.
As a classteacher, I’d seek to describe, within my overall planning, the weeks where marking demand was likely to be highest, such as extended writing opportunities, from different curriculum areas, so that I could manage the marking load. By doing this, I could timetable more factual, in-lesson marking for some areas, while knowing that I had a pile of stories, science reports or some other extended work to mark.
As for homework, I am an advocate of homework that does not require marking; something to read, to think about or talk about, to reflect upon, to create information that can support subsequent learning, might reduce some aspects of marking load. If first draft writing is prepared as homework, the lesson can be devoted to editing, which in itself is the first stage of marking, but could be undertaken by learners with the ability to do so, bringing them into the analytical aspects of review.
- As an organisation, schools should set marking expectations that are clear, concise and achievable and have impact on learning.
- Plan mark loads over a known timescale, so that books are marked appropriately in timescales that enable feedback to be useful.
- Learners should see themselves as active partners in work review. It should be done with and through, not always done to. Marking in a lesson is a very supportive strategy, especially for struggling learners, where immediacy of response is needed.
- Take control of the marking, before it takes control of you.