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 [...]

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 [...]

Making a mockery of marking: The new GCSE English Language mocks

2016-12-05T13:38:59+00:00December 5th, 2016|assessment|

The following is a guest post from the mastermind of Comparative Judgement, Dr Chris Wheadon. The marking of English Language is likely to be extremely challenging this year. English Language has long form answer questions, typically with 8, 16 and 24 mark responses. Ofqual’s research suggests the following range of precision is normal across GCSE and A level: 8 mark items: +/- 3 marks 16 mark items: +/- 4 marks 24 mark items: +/- 6 marks So, when an 8 mark item is marked, for the same response, it is normal for one marker to give 4 marks, while another will give 7 [...]

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 [...]

Proof of progress Part 3

2016-12-06T09:34:06+00:00July 6th, 2016|assessment|

Who's better at judging? PhDs or teachers? In Part 1 of this series I described how Comparative Judgement works and the process of designing an assessment to test Year 5 students' writing ability. Then in Part 2 I outlined the process of judging these scripts and the results they generated. In this post I'm going to draw some tentative conclusions about the differences between the ways teachers approach students' work and the way other experts might do so. After taking part in judging scripts with teachers, my suspicion was that teachers’ judgements might be warped by the long habit of relying on rubrics [...]

Triple impact feedback on the EEF marking review

2016-11-30T14:14:09+00:00May 24th, 2016|Featured|

1.The EEF publish a review of the evidence of marking. 2. I give them some feedback. 3. The EEF respond to my criticisms. 4. Well... we could go on for ever. Feel familiar? James Richardson and Robbie Coleman, say they'd be happy "if people took the current lack of evidence on marking as the key finding of the report." So would I. Unfortunately, I don't think that will be the case. Teachers and school leaders are desperate to have their views validated and some will, I fear, latch on to the weakly evidenced "findings" the report offers. Now of course, absence of evidence [...]

A marked decline? The EEF’s review of the evidence on written marking

2016-05-19T10:45:32+01:00May 18th, 2016|assessment|

Question: How important is it for teachers to provide written feedback on students' work? Answer: No one knows. This is essentially the substance of the Education Endowment Foundation's long-awaited review on written marking. The review begins with the following admission: ...the review found a striking disparity between the enormous amount of effort invested in marking books, and the very small number of robust studies that have been completed to date. While the evidence contains useful findings, it is simply not possible to provide definitive answers to all the questions teachers are rightly asking. [my emphasis] But then they go and spoil it all by [...]

Workload Challenge: Marking

2016-11-02T18:04:15+00:00March 26th, 2016|assessment|

The three areas identified by teachers' responses to the Workload Challenge as particularly burdensome were marking, planning and data and a separate report has been prepared on each. On of the problems encountered in preparing these reports is the lack of a robust evidence base. Too often those involved in compiling the reports were forced to rely on professional judgement and 'common sense' interpretations of what little evidence there was. One of the themes which ran through all our work was the belief that marking, planning and data are proxies for teacher performance. On its own, this might be fine - proxies are often the [...]

The role of teachers is not to make managers’ lives easier

2016-02-29T19:17:28+00:00February 29th, 2016|behaviour, leadership, workload|

"To supervise people, you must either surpass them in their accomplishments or despise them." Benjamin Disraeli Questions about the purpose of education divide and bedevil: there's no real agreement about what education is for. But what about teachers? Surely, even if we disagree about what exactly teachers ought to teach we all at least agree they should be teaching children something? And - at least in theory - I think we do, broadly, agree that teachers should teach. Whatever your ideological stripe, you probably agree that the education of children - whatever that means - is the main thing. Everything else is peripheral. [...]

Is it what you do or the way that you do it?

2018-11-26T16:29:29+00:00January 23rd, 2016|research|

Alex Quigley has just responded to my post Two Stars and a Bloody Wish! with the revelation that it works for him and others: Using a ‘Two Stars and a Wish’ model ironically meant that many teachers were writing more concise comments and spending less time on marking than before. Rather than proving a waste of time as David Didau suggests, it was saving time for many (teachers weren’t beholden to two wishes each time and there was seldom ‘lavish praise’). Well, good. If using a particular marking structure does actually save teachers time then who am I to criticise? Alex goes on to say [...]

Why I like ‘tick n flick’

2015-12-16T14:40:28+00:00December 16th, 2015|Featured|

It is vain to do with more what can be done with less. William of Ockham Tick n flick - the practice of flicking through students' exercise books and ticking to indicate that they have been read (or at least seen) is widely used as a pejorative term for the laziest type of marking undertaken only by the most feckless, morally bankrupt of teachers - generally gets a bad press. Perhaps this is unsurprising; in the worst cases it suggests a hurried post-hoc skim through pages of work in order to give the unconvincing appearance that books are being marked. No one [...]

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