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Marking tips for the NQT

You’ve just started your first teaching job. You want to make a great first impression. The thing is, just who do you want to make a great first impression on?

 

Those that pay your wages, those that line manage you, or those you want to progress? Surely it’s the latter? But then again, there is absolutely nothing wrong in putting yourself in the spotlight and being appreciated by your peers and superiors. Because surely if your line manager etc. are happy, then your students probably will be, too?

No matter what the next words say, you will have a school marking policy that you must follow. It might not float your marking and feedback boat, but you simply must follow procedure and protocol. Because if you don’t:

a) you won’t be too popular and questions will be asked, and…

b) your students will not have the consistency that they want, need and deserve.

And we all yearn for consistency, within all facets of everyday school life, don’t we? A consistent daily diet of what goes on in your classroom will hopefully ensure consistency of performance by those that truly matter.

 

 

So, as an NQT, what does outstanding marking look like?

 

Ah, marking! The M word. Piles and piles of exercise books, you’re shattered, it’s 8pm, and you have done a 12 hour day already. The last thing you want to do is mark! But mark you must…

Let’s get personal: I don’t like to call it marking or even feedback. I look on it with my parental hat on rather than my teaching hat. I call it, and want to see it as, ongoing dialogue. As an NQT, an integral part of establishing yourself in your new environment is forging outstanding working relationships with your students. That requires regular, consistent dialogue, of which marking plays a huge part. But not the whole part.

Informal assessment is something that I have found teachers in practical subjects such as PE and Technology to do particularly well. In a way, their dialogue has to be regular, informal, and outstanding, as there can often be no evidence trail in the form of exercise books, coursework etc… So what’s good for the practical goose should be good for the theoretical gander.

Marking and feedback has to include verbal assessment and dialogue. Many students will be inspired and progress from what you say, not from what you write. So think about what you say, just as much as what you write.

And whilst you must follow school procedures about regularity, grading, corrections, thoroughness, targets, frequency and speed of marking – I place the greatest emphasis on the dialogue and relationship that marking and feedback brings to the teacher/student dynamic.

 

 

An ongoing, positive dialogue enhanced and grown by your marking and feedback gives ownership and accountability to the student for their learning.

 

As stated before, it’s a great way for NQT’s to quickly build up rapport and trust with those sat in front of them, but it also challenges students to take responsibility for their education, their progression, and make decisions. Also, to be thoughtful and articulate, and to question what they have done, what they are doing, and what they will be doing. And it doesn’t have to be onerous.

I look at marking as a parent: I want my own children to be challenged and to be thoughtful when they read marked work. Hopefully, this will breed not just learning, but understanding. Surely understanding is the Golden Fleece, the Holy Grail of education?

For me, marking and feedback is not something to be seen as a burden or to tick a box. Time is in short supply anyway, so use your marking time wisely and look at it in a positive way, and put students at the heart of it. And if possible, use your time wisely enough to plan when additional and necessary dialogue can take place and when students have the time to reflect on your marking.

As a parent, a book full of red ticks, Well Done’s, and VG’s does not really equate to understanding, and makes me question just how much my own kids are responsible for their own progression. Because they really do have to take responsibility for it just as much as the paid professional stood in front of them.

 

One searching question or challenge leading to reflection, is far more powerful, for me, than a lifetime of ticks.

 

 


Anthony Bunn

A fully qualified teacher since 1995, Anthony’s specialism is PE, but he also teaches RE and History at GCSE level, PHSE in Key Stages 3 and 4, and has experience of Literacy and Numeracy at Key Stage 2. Although his main experience is of teaching students aged 11-18, he has taught at all Key Stages and so has accumulated a wide range of classroom management and teaching/learning styles and strategies over two decades.

He has 16 years experience as a middle leader, in both pastoral and academic fields. Amongst his roles have been Head of Faculty, Head of Department, Head of Year, and School Sport Co-ordinator. He has successfully taken on a number of different responsibilities within schools, both whole-school and targeted, for example: Staff Governor, School Interview team, Head of Careers, Head of PHSE, Head of Sixth Form, Head of Transition, amongst many others. Anthony has led whole-school and targeted CPD/INSET/Training on a number of educational focuses, both pastoral and academic, and has experience of successfully leading teams through seven Ofsted/HMI inspections. Away from education, he has played professional and semi-professional sport; edits his own magazine; and has written for a number of leading national newspapers and magazines.

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