5 high impact and easy ways to speed up marking. 

There has been so much said recently on Twitter about marking and feedback mostly because Ofsted recently said that “there is remarkably little high quality, relevant research evidence to suggest that detailed or extensive marking has any significant impact on pupils’ learning” in a myth busting document published at the end of November. Marking has always been a contentious discussion in the 15 years I’ve been teaching and I don’t see that changing in the next 15 years of my career.

I know that some may disagree with me on what I’m going to say next, but I have always seen the value in giving quality feedback. Used effectively and purposefully, quality feedback helps students develop and improve their work.

Over the years I’ve tried a variety of different approaches from footnote marking to simpler what went well and even better if comments. In the process I’ve also destroyed my social life with marking workload and quite often, especially with footnote marking, I’ve done more work than my students did. However, over time I’ve also developed a series of methods that has allowed me to reduce my marking load, make my marking more effective and still make sure that everything is marked in good time. So here are my 6 high impact ways of streamlining marking workload and making marking count.

“There is remarkably little high quality, relevant research evidence to suggest that detailed or extensive marking has any significant impact on pupils’ learning” (Ofsted, 2016)

Number 1: Have a rota

In my school we are asked to mark books once every three weeks and any mock exams or controlled assessments within a reasonable but timely fashion. With that in mind I have a rota and I’m strict on it. My current rota is as follows;

  • Week 1 – Year 9 and GCSE Writing
  • Week 2 – Year 8 and GCSE Practical
  • Week 3 – Year 7 and A Level

As I said, I’m strict on myself on getting these done within the week, spending two days on a year group and two days on either GCSE or A Level. As I don’t mark on Fridays or over the weekend, it is a pretty good motivation to get them done in those four days.

Any controlled assessments or mock exams that need marking I simply divide the number of papers by the amount of time I’ve got to do them and mark that many every day. If I’ve got 20 mock papers to mark in 2 weeks, that’s 5 papers a day (remember I’m avoiding marking on Fridays and the weekend). This way the workload is spread across the longer time frame and never feels like a massive burden.

Number 2: Find the right time

Having said I don’t mark at the weekends or on a Friday, I try very hard not to mark in the evenings at home either. I have two young children and a homelife that I’d like to preserve! So it’s become about finding the right time to do it. One of the things I’ve found is that coming into school ten minutes earlier than I did before actually gives me 20 minutes before any morning meetings or briefings take place – which doubled the amount of marking I could do. It is also a very quiet and calm time at school. I can generally get a Key Stage 3 class marked in that time.

I will do my best to find time during the school day to get my marking done to avoid the dreaded moment I have to say to my wife I’ve got marking to do tonight. I’ll mark one or two essays at breaktime or five or six at lunchtime. It doesn’t take up all my lunch, I still get a break, but I’ve made progress against my daily quota of marking. Any possible moment is better than having the drag the books home, get them out, feel bitter about it and have my time taken away from my family.

Number 3: Mark only one major piece of classwork and tick the rest.

I make my students work towards a major piece of classwork which will help them towards their controlled assessments. In the case of practical work that equates to one sharing every three weeks and in written work that could be a exam question or a contribution to coursework. The rest of the work is building the skills and knowledge required for the work to be completed.

Number 4: Actionable even better if statements

I like what went well and even better if. However, ebi statements need to be specific and actionable. It needs to be “add a sentence which  describes the way you’ve used tone of voice when saying…” rather than vague statements that say “could you improve the way you’ve used voice key terms”. I also used Fix-It time to give the students the time to act on those statements and go through anything that effected anymore than 2 students.

Number 5: Peer and Self Assess the rest of the major classwork

I have a rota for when I mark the books but I also have a strict rota for peer and self assessment. My current rota looks likes this:

Teacher and Peer Assessment Self-Assessment No Assessment
Week 1 Year 9 and GCSE Writing Year 7 and A Level Year 8 and GCSE Practical
Week 2 Year 8 and GCSE Practical Year 9 and GCSE Writing Year 7 and A Level
Week 3 Year 7 and A Level Year 8 and GCSE Practical Year 9 and GCSE Writing

This really means that there really is only one key piece of marking to be done in the students books every three weeks. This works best after practise and when you’ve got the students to give effective feedback using actionable ebi’s like the teacher does. It is even better if the students can use the teacher feedback as a starting place to begin their marking. That then allows the self assessment to become an effective one because they can judge for themselves how far they have moved towards the teachers feedback before if is marked by the teacher again and they recieve another target to work towards.

It is in the process of the student acting upon the teachers feedback to improve their next piece of work, which is then peer assessed for further suggestions of improvement before the student self assesses it to give them the opportunity to judge their own progress ready for the teacher to mark the work again (and give them new feedback and initiate the whole the process again) is where progress can be seen and evidenced.

This way workload is reduced to its minimum but the impact is maximised.


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