The problem with marking and how to solve it

2023-02-12T10:13:52+00:00January 31st, 2022|workload|

Every teacher - particularly English teachers - has huge existential guilt about marking. When I worked full time as a teacher marking was the first thing to go when the stress inevitably piled up. And if we excoriate ourselves sufficiently to make sure mock exams and termly assessments receive sufficient attention, who's got time to keep up with all those Key Stage 3 books?, There are only so many hours in the day and the only way to survive the brutal realities of teaching is to make correspondingly brutal choices. Pretty everything teachers do has value, but it's unavoidably true [...]

Why interview feedback is a waste of time

2020-02-27T20:58:27+00:00February 27th, 2020|leadership|

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts on the subject of improving the interview process in schools: Part 1: A brief review of the evidence Part 2: Intuition vs. statistical prediction (in which I made suggestions for improving structured interviews) Part 3: The interview lesson I thought I'd said all I needed to say of the subject of school interviews. Then a few days ago I responded to a tweet about providing unsuccessful candidates with post-interview feedback suggesting it was a waste of time: Feedback on unsuccessful interviews is valueless. It’s all polite variants rationalising why your face [...]

What do students think about marking?

2023-02-12T13:21:35+00:00March 3rd, 2019|Featured|

Over the past year or so, I've been doing some very informal research into students' attitudes and opinions with some of the schools I work with on an ongoing basis. Two years ago I wrote 2 posts summarising the problems with marking and suggesting an alternative way forward: Marking is an act of folly Less marking, more feedback: A challenge and a proposal Since then I've been recommending that one of the ways schools can seek to reduce teachers' work load is to move away from the expectation that teachers must write extended comments in response to children's written work [...]

Why feedback fails

2017-05-28T13:40:02+01:00January 10th, 2017|assessment|

Feedback is one of the few things in education that pretty much every agrees is important and worthwhile. The need for feedback is obvious: if you were expected to learn how to reverse park a car whilst wearing a blindfold you would be very unlikely to learn how to go about this without causing damage either to your car, or to the environment. In order to learn you would need to see where you were going and what happened when you turned the wheel. We get this sort of trial and error feedback all time; we act and then observe the effects of [...]

Less marking, more feedback: A challenge and a proposal

2016-12-01T16:18:59+00:00December 1st, 2016|leadership|

I've been arguing for some time that if teachers spent less time marking (by which I mean writing comments on students' work) then they might have a lot more time for giving meaningful feedback which actually helps develop more flexible, durable learning. This is a message that tends to play well with harried, over burdened teachers but often fills school leaders with horror. The fear is that because some teachers are lazy, good-for-nothing loafers they'll simply take this as an opportunity to shuttle off to the pub every evening and their students will be even more neglected. I can certainly understand [...]

Marking is an act of folly

2016-12-04T17:26:15+00:00November 30th, 2016|leadership|

Contrary to popular belief, marking and feedback are not the same thing. Clearly they're connected - and, ideally most marking has the intention of giving feedback - but the process of marking or giving marks does not, in and of itself, equate with feedback. Those who see marking as an essential component of a teachers' role should wonder why, in many parts of the world - particularly east Asian countries which seem to do very well in international comparisons - teachers do not routinely mark students' work. If it were essential this would not be possible. Anglophone countries - and the UK [...]

The feedback continuum: why reducing feedback helps students learn

2016-11-21T23:27:50+00:00October 15th, 2016|learning|

The effects of feedback are more complex than we often realise. While expertise and mastery is unlikely to develop without feedback it's certainly not true to say that giving feedback results in expertise and mastery. There are few teachers who do not prioritise giving feedback and yet not all teachers' feedback is equally effective. My understanding of the effects of feedback has grown as I've come to accept and internalise the profound differences between 'performance' and 'learning'. If you're not clear on these, I've summarised them here. Hattie and Timperley point out that, "Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this [...]

Feedback and assessment are not the same

2016-07-11T21:18:46+01:00July 11th, 2016|assessment|

You don't figure out how fat a pig is by feeding it. Greg Ashman At the sharp end of education, assessment and feedback are often, unhelpfully, conflated. This has been compounded by the language we use: terms like 'assessment for learning' and 'formative assessment' are used interchangeably and for many teachers both are essentially the same thing as providing feedback. Clearly, these processes are connected - giving feedback without having made some kind of assessment is probably impossible in any meaningful sense and most assessment will result in some form of feedback being given or received - but they are not the same. [...]

Should students respond to feedback?

2015-11-30T12:46:27+00:00November 30th, 2015|assessment, leadership|

The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting. Fran Lebowitz One of the criticisms of my post about book monitoring is that I have omitted checks to see whether students have responded to feedback. This omission is entirely deliberate. Does this mean I don't care whether students respond to feedback? You might think this is a bit of a silly question - of course they should. After all, what's the point in giving feedback which will be ignored? Dylan Wiliam makes the following comment in my book: Sometimes the support we give to students may be emotional [...]

Could less marking mean more feedback?

2015-09-27T18:32:36+01:00September 27th, 2015|Featured|

Opportunity makes a thief. - Francis Bacon I wrote recently about the differences between marking and feedback. In brief, and contrary to popular wisdom, they are not the same thing; feedback is universally agreed to be a good bet in teachers' efforts to improve student outcomes whereas as marking appears to be almost entirely unsupported by evidence and neglected by researchers. Marking takes time Although there are some who dislike the use of the term opportunity cost being applied to education, there's no getting away from the fact that whilst we may be able to renew all sorts of resources, time is always finite. [...]

Marking and feedback are not the same

2016-05-24T13:47:04+01:00September 19th, 2015|workload|

Feedback is, we're told, the most powerfully important invention in which a teacher can engage, but marking students' books can be mind-numbingly tedious drudgery. Because of this tension, many schools have introduced strict marking policies and work scrutiny schedules to make sure that teachers don't shirk this crucial responsibility. But, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am becoming that marking and feedback are two quite separate things. Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines marking thusly: And here are two different definitions for feedback: Obviously, this doesn't prove anything other than that in the public mind, marking and feedback are considered [...]

It's the bell curve, stupid!

2015-06-10T12:20:07+01:00June 10th, 2015|research|

Like an ultimate fact without any cause, the individual outcome of a measurement is, however, in general not comprehended by laws. This must necessarily be the case. Wolfgang Pauli A month or so back I met Professor Steve Higgins from Durham University's Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring. He presented at researchED's primary literacy conference in Leeds and what he had to say was revelatory. His talk was on the temptations and tension inherent in the EEF's Pupil Premium Toolkit. As most readers will know, the toolkit is a bit of a blunt instrument and presents interventions in terms of how many [...]

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