Marking: how much is too much?

This post is the third of a series of three about the impact of our recently updated feedback and marking policy at Wellacre Academy. The first is here Marking: why bother? and the second here Marking: what’s important to us?

I was challenged on Twitter the other week to justify the amount of time that our staff spend marking books:

My reply, although honest, was hesistant. We are working towards reducing teacher workload, and aiming for quality over quantity where marking is concerned, but how do we know if it’s working yet? I had commented that I really liked Durrington High School’s use of student voice, but I don’t think we’re ready for that just yet. Instead I started with my own marking. I know that, as an assistant principal, my teaching load is significantly lighter than most of my colleagues, but I’m determined to practice what I preach when it comes to marking. I teach three GCSE classes, two for physics and one for maths, and although I’ve challenged myself this year not to let teaching slip in favour of my other responsibilities, I must say I’ve found our new approach a massive help. Especially when this happens:

My secret? Although I try to mark something every lesson, I certainly don’t mark everything. There’s no need, and if students aren’t going to have the chance to improve it then I don’t think there’s much point either. When I mark, I’m quite sparing in what I write – there’s a picture below – and often I’ll home in on a single, crucial misconception or area that I know a student really needs to work on.

My own marking, with student action as a result.

My own marking, with student action as a result.

I wrote 15 words, Callum wrote 60 in response, and I particularly love this example because he’s actually put more effort into his response than he did for the original piece of work! My two pen colours (let’s not get into the debate about which is better) represent before and after the student improved his work; all I had to do afterwards was verify that Callum had improved on his original work. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting there little by little.

Inspired by this, I spoke to a number of colleagues who all fed back positively that our new whole-Academy approach had enabled them to focus on what was truly important about marking – in the words of one teacher, to “mark less, but mark better”. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

I’ve included a selection of examples from other Wellacre staff below (click to enlarge)- if you’re interested in the detail, please get in touch or leave a comment.

Finally, my top tips for continuing to reduce marking workload while maintaining a clear focus on student progress:

  1. Don’t mark everything. Decide what will really make a difference.
  2. Share your marking rota with students – they’ll know when to expect feedback and they’ll remind you!
  3. Refuse substandard work – “If it’s not excellent, it’s not finished”
  4. Codes instead of comments saves writing the same sentence over and over (see the ‘feedback bank’ example above)
  5. Identify the errors for students to self-correct
  6. Use triple-impact marking
  7. Mark instead of planning!
  8. You mark the first half of an extended piece of work, they mark the second half

Hope they’re useful!

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About Stacey Partridge

Assistant Principal responsible for Teaching & Learning and CPD, Stem, Transition & primary liaison. Applied Learning Quality Nominee, CEIAG, Prince's Trust and SMSC. Wellacre Academy Flixton, Greater Manchester
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2 Responses to Marking: how much is too much?

  1. Celine Cesbron says:

    Great support to improve my marking ! Thanks !

  2. Pingback: What happens in our best lessons, and how do we know? | Making Our Best Better

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