Sunday 27 October 2013

Manageable and meaningful marking #blogsync October

I challenge you to find a single teacher that actually enjoys marking. After three years I'm still not a huge fan but I've tried to find ways to make my marking manageable but, more importantly, meaningful. I was given the opportunity to run a session on feedback for NQTs this term alongside one of our Assistant Heads and this (combined with the October theme of 'marking' for #blogsync) seemed like a good time to reflect on my own practice.

What do I mark?
As an NQT I would spend hours trying to mark every piece of work and it took a lot of repetition from my Head of a Department before I recognised the value of only marking selected pieces of work. I now try and set certain pieces of work with the intention of marking it (as opposed to looking through student books after the event to try and pick a piece) and make sure that students know what I will be looking at. See the brilliant post by @MaryMyatt "Should I be marking every piece of work?" for more on this.

How do I mark it?
In order to make my marking easier I try and share the specific success criteria with students so they have a checklist. Recently I've been printing off these checklists so that they can be stuck in and I can tick and cross each criteria instead of writing out the same few WWWs and EBIs for students. The time that I save on re-writing the success criteria can then be spent writing a question or giving a hint to students on how to respond to their feedback (see my post from 29th September for an example). I also love the 'purple page of progress' idea from Danielle Kohlman (@kohlmand), a great way of making feedback stand out and become more useful for learning.

Why do I mark it?
There are so many answers to this one: because I'm supposed to, because I'll be criticised in our department book scrutiny if I don't, because one day Ofsted might pick up one of the books during an observation... I think the best reason for marking books can be found in David Didau's (@LearningSpy) blog post "Marking is an Act of Love" - we mark because we want it to have an impact. I couldn't agree more with David's argument (and that of many other bloggers on this topic) that for marking to be effective we need to give students DIRT time (dedicated improvement and reflection time). This is something I've tried really hard to fit into my lessons this year and I was amazed when I marked my books for a second time to see that nearly every student had completed a 'learner response' to their EBI. This certainly didn't happen in my books last year, and I doubt it would have happened this year if I hadn't given students DIRT time or made them aware that they have the resources (their own exercise books, their peers, the textbook, the internet on their tablets, me...) that will allow them to improve their work. I also think it is really important to acknowledge that students have completed their learner responses, perhaps with a snazzy sticker like we have at Greenford High. This continues the (written) student teacher dialogue and might even encourage students to have a quick look back at their work and remember what they did two or three lessons ago.

I'm still not saying that I love marking books (especially the part where I found out that between me and my partner my Toyota Aygo doesn't have enough boot space for us both to fit our half term marking in...) but I certainly feel a lot more positive about it knowing that it will take me a maximum of an hour and a half per 30 books and knowing that the marking allows students to make progress.

('What, How, Why' taken from Zoe Elder (@fullonlearning), one of the books on my half term 'thank goodness I finally have the mental space to be able to read this in depth' reading list... Other books include 'Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential' by Carol Dweck and finally finishing 'What's the Point of School?' by Guy Claxton)

Mary Myatt

Danielle Kohlman

David Didau

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