Marking Efficiently

Today I spent some time looking through over a hundred exercise books. Whilst there is some feedback to go to specific departments, what I was really interested in was efficiency and whether the time we spend marking proportionate to the impact on learning? 

The majority of this blog is about sharing strategies for making sure the answer to the above question is an emphatic ‘YES’, but first of all, some principles:

  1. If it doesn’t lead to learning, stop doing it. Things which don’t lead to learning include:
    • ticking work without a clearly defined reason (this doesn’t count as marking!)
    • stamps with words like ‘Well Done’
    • bland comments on their own, such as ‘Good work’ and ‘Well explained’
    • questions and DIRT tasks left incomplete
    • teacher corrections – get the pupil to do it
    • grading work routinely (see pages 9&10 of this fantastic document (EEF – A Marked Improvement)
  2. What next? Marking should guide pupils as to what you want them to do next. Progress should be visible, either through a DIRT task or a subsequent piece of work. If it is isn’t obvious how marking is leading to learning then try something else.
  3. Don’t cover the page in ink! Lengthy comments might make teachers feel better, but often a shorter comment, coding system or similar is more effective. The aim is for the teacher to write less and the pupil to write more.

An interesting exercise would be to have a detailed look at your exercise books for a particular class and ask yourself the questions below. Work scrutiny aside, and ignoring the demands (or not?) of Ofsted, these are things which I think we would all want to see if learning is taking place over time:

  1. Is there evidence that my feedback to pupils is leading to learning?
  2. Are pupils asked to respond to feedback and/or redraft responses?
  3. Do the exercise books contain model answers and exemplars at appropriate levels?
  4. Is there evidence that the pupils’ understanding improves as the book progresses?
  5. Is the learning and design of tasks getting more challenging as the book progresses?

So on to the strategies…

Before looking at the following, it is worth making sure you’ve read this blog we published a little while ago, which contains some helpful ideas on marking with impact.

  1. I saw quite a lot of standard forms for feedback, most of which included opportunities for DIRT. These are good where they offered a common approach across a department. They are easy for pupils to access and lend consistency to the feedback they receive. Here are some examples:
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From History – recent assessment: pupil to review

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A format used consistently in PE GCSE.
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Pre-printed feedback sheet in English. Target list is a great idea!

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Pupil and teacher evaluation sheet from Art.

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This example from history is really effective!

2. Think Pink: Go Green. An effective strategy to cut down on teacher writing and give responsibility back to pupils.

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Think Pink: Go Green being used in Drama.

3. Whole Class Feedback. Individual feedback is important, but if nearly as much can be gained from whole class feedback then try this first. Here is a great example from English.

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Whole class feedback sheet from English.

4. Setting specific DIRT tasks can be a bit more time-consuming, but is well worthwhile

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A good example of a DIRT task from Drama.

Where marking is best, it uses a mixture of approaches depending on the situation. In general, detailed teacher marking should come after other approaches. Ask yourself how far you can move learning forward with peer assessment tasks, whole class feedback and some of the strategies in the aforementioned blog. Once you’ve used these techniques, it is probably the most effective time to target individual needs with detailed individual feedback.

As always, let me know what you think or if you have any questions or contributions!

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