Making Marking Work
Marking comprises a significant part of teachers’ workload. It is an inevitable part of the work we do, but it is an important one. However, its importance is only realised if the purpose of the work being marked is clear to both teachers and students.
The biggest issue with marking is that it is time-consuming. The second biggest issue is that the students often do not read the feedback carefully written by the teacher. So, I will deal with these two primary issues in turn.
Create a mark scheme
As said, make sure the tasks being marked are purposeful; i.e. that they relate to the summative assessment criteria; that they are supporting students’ development at a specific point in time; and that the feedback is specific and returned to students in a timely fashion. Immediacy allows feedback to feed-forward in students’ upcoming work.
Using the summative assessment criteria means that you are not re-inventing the wheel, but also using them purposefully to support students’ achievement. Many qualifications have a plethora of criteria, so, be selective and use what is appropriate at different stages of your courses. It may be that you have a specific focus at different points in a term, depending on curriculum and the abilities and stages of development of your students at any given point in time.
Don’t feel you have to mark everything in minutiae detail – focus on the key points being worked on in that piece of work. Note any common issues across the cohort and address these within class or tutorials; any recurring issues with specific students, address these individually or refer to additional support (e.g. study skills).
Use the mark scheme provided by the exam board, adapt accordingly if necessary, and develop peer and self-assessment of tasks. Promoting effective peer and self-assessment takes practice and needs to be structured so students know what is expected and why this approach is being used. It is always encouraged to view the work yourself before such an activity so that you can highlight any key strengths and areas for development of the work on an individual and collective basis and share these with the students as key learning points.
Mark alongside students
This is an innovative approach to the whole marking and feedback process. It is sometimes referred to as ‘live marking’. Basically, it means that you mark students’ work in real-time alongside them so you can give immediate feedback which can be acted on immediately. Knowing where your students are at in their development in real-time allows you to address key learning points when they are most relevant to students – there and then.
The whole point of marking is so that teachers know where their students are at any given time during the course and that the feedback provided helps students to develop in preparation for their summative assessment. Ensure the feedback is aligned to the summative assessment criteria and that any additional feedback is supportive of study skills.
Written feedback takes time to draft and is often not read or digested fully by students. One effective approach I have found is giving verbal feedback which can be recorded by the student in a face-to-face discussion, or recorded by the teacher and sent via email, VLE or media platform to the student. The student is then tasked with reviewing the feedback and responding via email, VLE or media platform to summarise the key points of the feedback including the areas for development. This approach actively involves students in the feedback process and gives them more agency in setting their own development targets.
Less is Sometimes More
Home-study tasks and formative assessments may not always be in your full control as a teacher, however, making the most of one task can often surpass the need for multiple tasks of lesser value to the progress of your students – again it comes back to the point of purpose. These are some questions to assess the value of tasks being set:
- Why is this task being set?
- What is being assessed?
- How does it help me in my assessment of students at this time?
- How does it help my students’ development?
- How will the feedback from this task be used to feedforward, by you the teacher and your students?
Above all, find out about your institution’s marking policy. This is a key first step to understanding expectations in turnaround and what is required in feedback. Working with colleagues can help to manage the marking workload so there is an even distribution (where possible as there will be unavoidable spikes across the academic year). Try some different approaches and see if they help to make marking more efficient.