27 Jun 2022
By Mark Richards,
With reports suggesting that one in four teachers are working 60 hour weeks, the issue of teacher workload is one that isn’t going away anytime soon. Of course, for many teachers, a considerable amount of their time is taken up with marking. Teacher Workload Surveys have found that the amount of time teachers are spending marking has decreased since 2016, but there is still an argument that marking could be cut down further still. It would obviously make a big difference to a teacher’s workload if they can find ways to do this.
Marking can sometimes feel like a burden, especially if a school’s policy around marking and feedback concentrates on the amount of it that is done. More marking is not necessarily better marking – but as marking is fundamental to teaching and learning, there is always a tendency to simply do more of it.
So, can you make your marking more effective and less time-consuming at the same time?
The purpose of marking
Firstly, it’s worth considering what the purpose of marking is. It enables teachers to form a better understanding of how their pupils are progressing. Marking gives teachers the data and knowledge required to better inform future planning of lessons and learning. It also provides a picture of which pupils might benefit from interventions. From a student’s point of view, it shows them what they have done well and what their next steps are. It also gives ownership of learning to pupils.
What does ‘effective’ marking and feedback look like?
The first step to improving your technique is to understand what you are trying to achieve. What is it that you are aiming for? What’s your goal? What is the key purpose? Marking and feedback that is rooted in 3 key principles has more chance of being effective.
Marking needs to be meaningful. If you are confident that it will be moving pupils’ learning on, then it iss meaningful. This will depend on the age of a class and what works best for a class. Although teachers usually have to conform to a whole-school marking policy, this doesn’t mean that all marking has to be the same.
You should experiment with different techniques and strategies to find out what works best for you and a class. Of course, not all marking needs to be written, either. Try peer marking and self-marking; give students the opportunity to respond to feedback; and don’t be afraid of giving verbal feedback.
Marking always needs to be manageable. The time that marking takes should be taken into account. Marking also needs to be motivational for pupils, giving them the incentive, and the tools they need to progress.
More than anything, you need to ignore the myths of marking. Spending countless hours on your marking does not make you a better teacher. Similarly, writing pages and pages of feedback for pupils doesn’t make your marking any more effective.
You need to work smarter, not harder.
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