Marking: Should we be doing it?

Standards:

S1, S2, S4, S8, S9, S10

One of the first things I noticed when heading up to the staff room on my first day of teaching was the stack of books that my mentor was frustratingly marking. I have talked with my mentor about the amount of time she takes out of her day just to mark books on many occasions. The answer is always “too long”, the problem we face as teachers is a constant reminder of the extra effort that could be put into our lessons with this time. As a teacher in training, I am finding myself spending 30 minutes marking work for every hour lesson that I teach. According to research done by Canvas the cloud-based learning management platform for academic institutions and companies worldwide, “one in six (17%) teachers in the UK are spending more than 11 hours a week on marking and assessments”(Canvas, 2016).

As I have continued teaching and gained some experience, developing more personal relationships with the students, I have found that they seem to prefer verbal constructive feedback. I have found that I would rather spend the time that I would be marking, sitting one to one with that particular student finding out what they need to do to get themselves where they want to be rather than another number on a paper. I also believe that as a teacher I should give the student an opportunity to stretch themselves and find their own way with a bit of guidance here and there. This links in with Perrys’ cognitive constructivism where learning is something that the student builds upon with guidance. But also that every student dependent on their background will approach learning in a different way (Perry, 1999).

I also felt like it was taking too much time to get students their feedback and giving them a marked book in the following week’s lesson was not soon enough to keep it fresh in their minds. I started reading teachers blogs to get an idea of any effective ways to give fresh feedback and stumbled upon a quote from Kirbys (2015) blog entitled ‘Marking is a Hornet’ in the blog he talks about how slow and ineffective he believes plain marking is. One quote that stood out to me was his take on fresh feedback:

“Our feedback maximises the responsibility pupils take for self-checking, correcting, editing and redrafting their work. It maximises preemptive teaching, preventing frequent errors and common misconceptions; it minimises laborious, slow, reactive written comments.”

 Kirby talks about the shift from marking to the no marking at all policy that the school has undergone. He talks about saving more than 20,000 hours every year between 100 teachers and what they can do with that time. He doesn’t talk about marking being a bad thing but good leaders will stop a good thing so that teachers can focus on better things (Kirby, 2015). I believe that the concept of no marking at all may be a drastic one but maybe Kirby has a point about reducing the amount of marking so that teachers are better rested and can do more constructive things with the time they have. I also think that more trust and flexibility needs to be given back the teacher. So the idea that you will not have somebody pouring over your marking to make sure all is well is a comforting one. I think that without the looming cloud of book checking teachers can focus on the students’ needs.

I still have a long way to go before I figure out what particular style of feedback works best for the students, but I have learned a few things along the way. For instance, that getting feedback to them as soon as possible so what we have learned and what they need to improve is fresh in their minds. I have also learned that allowing students to mark each other’s work or their own work is a good way to get them thinking about ways in which they can improve themselves. I believe that this is a valuable life skill that can be transferred to many aspects of their lives. Because the desire for one to improve themselves not just academically will take them further in life than any one teacher could.

 

References:

Perry, William G. (1999). Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Cognitive Constructivism | GSI Teaching & Resource Center. 2017. Cognitive Constructivism | GSI Teaching & Resource Center. [ONLINE] Available at: http://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/cognitive-constructivism/. [Accessed 26 February 2017].

Pragmatic Education. 2017. Marking is a hornet | Pragmatic Education. [ONLINE] Available at: https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/marking-is-a-hornet/. [Accessed 26 February 2017].

Perry’s Scheme – Understanding the Intellectual Development of College-Age Students | The Innovative Instructor. 2017. Perry’s Scheme – Understanding the Intellectual Development of College-Age Students | The Innovative Instructor. [ONLINE] Available at: http://ii.library.jhu.edu/2013/12/13/perrys-scheme-understanding-the-intellectual-development-of-college-age-students/. [Accessed 26 February 2017].

 

 

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