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Too much to mark, too little time. What is a teacher to do?
Time is a finite resource, yet our marking workload can seem infinite. Therefore, we must look for effective marking strategies to help us deal with the seemingly insurmountable pile of books in front of us.
Undeniably, assessment and marking are vital parts of our role as educators. The evidence is clear that effective marking and feedback lead to significant improvements in pupil progress across the board. However, when you look at the numbers it is staggering how much our marking workload is dragging us down.
Firstly, if we assume a secondary teacher of a non-core subject teaches 10 classes of 30 students, with the requirement to mark a piece of work every half term (seems reasonable on the surface). Then that teacher is marking 1800 pieces of work a year. Spending just 5 minutes a piece will cost that teacher 150 hours over the course of a 38 week academic year. To put it bluntly, this exceeds the average PPA time by over 50 hours a year.
The way forward!
Here are some effective marking strategies to help take back time and take back control. Whilst maintaining your high-impact practice. You can also plan your marking using Teacher Toolkit’s 5 minute marking plan.
1. Whole-Class Feedback
This can be a huge time saver. Firstly, collect a range of books from your class. Preferably a cross-section of SEND, Pupil Premium, Higher and lower attainers. Secondly, note down key strengths and common areas of improvement. Record your findings on a capture sheet. Finally, feedback to your class. Emphasise the positives (we do better with praise) and scaffold pupils through an improvement task.
2. Selective marking
We do not have time to mark everything, nor should we seek to. Select a particular task or section of work that you are going to provide more detailed feedback on. It does not have to be a big piece of work, just something meaningful. You could try the Yellow Box method to help.
3. Show me
Similar to selective marking, but putting the onus on the pupils. Ask the pupil to look through their work, with a highlighter and identify where they have demonstrated a particular skill, improvement, piece of knowledge or whatever it is that you are looking for. Next, get the pupils to hand in their work on that page (which saves a surprising amount of time) and mark that highlighted work.
4. Check mark with conviction
A form of live marking. During the course of a lesson, insert clear points where pupils must get their work checked before moving on to a further point of the lesson or subsequent task. Certainly, a clear way to provide timely feedback. Though this does involve some preparation of an appropriate lesson.
5. Coded marking
All of the above methods could and should be used with coded marking points. Undoubtedly, you will end up providing a lot of similar feedback across a class of 30. Make efficient use of your time by training your class to respond to some generic coded marking points, as well as more specific points that can be adjusted on a class-by-class basis. Use letters, numbers, colours or shapes anything that works for you and reduce your time spent writing the same comments.
The key principle with time-effective, high-impact marking is that you implement what you are doing well. It is better that you do one strategy well, rather than multiple strategies poorly. Pupils will become adept at responding to your approach and the impact will be more significant.