- The first rule of mark club- Marking is an essential part of the continuing learning dialogue between the teacher and the learner.
- The second rule of mark club- It can be continuous and formative, or at discrete points and summative. Either way, it is part of a supportive, developmental process.
- The third rule of mark club- all marking must promote further learning. If it doesn’t have follow-up and impact, it may not be worth it….
There is the classic view of marking; teacher teaches, child produces, teacher marks, right or wrong, end of story. However, there will be few classrooms where the first three elements do not apply to a greater or lesser extent, although the time taken for each will be determined by the age and ability of the children.
The marking of a child’s work supports a number of aspects of practice.
- The work has value, so the teacher will spend time with it.
- How much of what has been taught has been retained and reused. (Did they “get it”?)
- The teacher gains insights into a child’s current abilities and needs. (Where next?)
- Are “they” doing “well enough”? (Quality assurance)
- It shows a broader audience the quality of interaction between learner and teacher. (Accountability)
It is worth, for me at least, unpicking some of the strands of the conversation.
- What’s the lesson about? Why are we doing this? (The context for the learning.)
- What am I supposed to be doing? (What’s the activity?)
- What’s the challenge? What is expected of me? What’s “enough”, what’s “good” for me?
- How much time have we got?
- Where’s this going next? (Homework, additional or integrated?)
Knowing what is expected is a significant driver for a learner. Insecurity or just not knowing can lead to off task behaviours which incur some comment from the teacher. Most teachers check whether their pupils understand, but the initial response might mask underlying needs. Clarity in challenge, wording and working practices, are essential, preferably differentiated to the needs of specific groups of children. Inappropriate expectation can lead to boredom for some and frustration for others. Checking how the learning is going is a particular aspect of the teacher role. It can also be the most rewarding, particularly if the intervention is reflective. Oral feedback and guidance are an essential element at this stage. It is probably worth considering, especially with younger learners, the adult recording the essence of the conversation and advice given in some form as an aide memoire within the working document. A form of continuous marking.
Expectation can be guided by a child’s understanding of their current capabilities and their need to make progress. The statement of progress and the steps to be taken need to be clearly articulated. At a personalised level, articulated in a form where the expectation is permitted to be an active constituent of classroom practice, this allows self-reflection and a clear focus for marking from the teacher. If this is in the form of a personal list/ladder of challenge, it can be incorporated into practice, discussion and provide the focus for marking.
Homework can create additional marking need, but, if the activity is considered within the learning dynamics of the topic, does not necessarily need to do so.
Consider as home activity:-
- Draft from notes taken in a lesson, to be brought back as first draft, for editing in class.
- Summarise what has been learned into three key pieces of information. Boxed, it becomes a form of revision note.
- “Drawing and colouring” to save class time for discussion.
- Personal research which adds to the lesson.
- Reading a piece of text before the lesson.
Did they get it?
If learners are asked at a specific point in the lesson to highlight where they have incorporated specific facts, a skim read should be sufficient to confirm this.
If learners have discrete personal targets, which may be skills-based, highlighting the achievement of a target allows a skim read to confirm. Focusing on these targets also allows the teacher to highlight any aspect not picked up by the learner. Learning-focused dialogue enhanced.
Where learners are asked to write an extended piece, consider marking the first hundred words, counted by the learner and the end point marked. Deep mark that section, with a skim read of the rest.
It is a useful shorthand to use WWW, what worked well, to provide focused feedback on positive points. This could be added to with two stars. Accentuate the positive. Feel-good is always more positive that feel-bad.
The outcomes from the above are likely to drive this area. What specifically needs to be gone over again and in what depth? Written guidance is only valuable if the learners have the skills to read and act on what has been written. Addressing issues arising may need a succeeding lesson, differentiated to the outcomes of the previous one. A note to this effect can become the teacher comment. It is possible in this regard to suggest further reading, research or reflection. Differentiated input allows for careful selection of language and information presentation to support the learner need.
EBI, or even better if, is a shorthand means to add a point for development, or alternate with a wish to go with stars. It is important not to labour the development points, especially if positives have been hard to find.
Some individuals require a considerable amount of help with learning. Undertaking diagnostic marking allows the teacher to fully understand the nature and the degree of need, which in turn supports decisions about expectation, support and guidance within planning. The outcomes of diagnostic marking might facilitate conversations with colleagues, such as the SENCo, as descriptors can suggest patterns of need.
The quality of marking is a clear demonstration of the value the teacher places on learner efforts. Too little and the learner can lack guidance. Too much can demotivate. It is a case of getting the marking “just right” for each learner.
Moral; get the learner to guide the marking effort towards their own needs, where they are able to do so.
And make time to follow up effectively.