A typical teacher marks an average of 83024 pieces of work each week. Okay, that may not be true, but it certainly feels that way.
We spend so much time marking that it can be hard to prioritise time for other things like lesson planning and… sleeping. So how can we make marking take up less time without lessening its impact on learning?
First, we’ve got to think about why we’re marking in the first place. There are a few reasons that spring immediately to mind:
No doubt you can think of plenty more, but in short we need to make sure the work has been done and understood and determine what further learning needs to take place. So how can we do that more quickly? Here are a few ideas:
The most effective feedback you can provide to a student is likely to come from face-to-face interaction, with their freshly completed work in front of them. But that requires a significant time investment, right? Wrong… get into the habit of marking students’ work face-to-face whilst the rest of the class is getting on with a task. You’ll only get through a handful of students each lesson but it will both slightly diminish your marking pile whilst giving the students whose work you mark a great opportunity to explore any difficulties and also giving you a great chance to gauge progress and understanding.
To be honest, this doesn’t always go well… but…. With older students using peer marking can be a great way to promote student understanding of mark schemes which is an important element of exam preparation. It will take some time to get students adequately trained to mark each other’s work to a high level and it often makes sense to encourage some degree of collaboration to enable the mark scheme to be discussed and applied by more than one student. Students will learn a lot from reading and critiquing each other’s work and are likely to gain as much from the marking process as they did from the initial learning task.
Peer feedback is a kind of ‘peer marking lite’ and can be an effective way of helping students develop their ability to provide meaningful feedback to their peers whilst informing their own learning process along the way. A popular method is to provide students with post it notes to use to annotate each other’s work with kind, specific comments. Receiving a range of kind, specific comments from peers can provide a real boost to students, and the process will expose them to the wide range of work produced by their peers.
If you’re marking an exercise that’s relatively straight forward in terms of marking, but you’re keen to ascertain where the learning gaps are in order to inform your lesson planning, mark a small sample of books. Perhaps a couple of your most, least and averagely able students. If this doesn’t paint a clear picture then continue marking, but if you’ve got what you came for then get on with planning your next lesson based on what you’ve learnt and build in a little time to have students mark the rest of the books at the start of the lesson. If you use this method a lot you should ensure that you’re checking all students’ work periodically by placing them in a rota.
As well as gauging learning gaps by marking, you can take a different approach altogether and specifically ask for student feedback or take special care to build assessment style tasks into the end of your lessons. Making this a standard part of your lesson can help you to gauge learning without always having to resort to piles of marking. You are also likely to get a better and more directive insight into what has been understood and what still requires further learning.
Of course, the nuclear option is to set less work that requires teacher marking. Have students complete activities online with built in assessments, or complete longer pieces of work which require infrequent marking, or group work, which cuts down the number of pieces of work to be marked. By reducing your marking load, you’re likely to increase the amount of time (and enthusiasm) you have for marking the work that does require your attention which, in turn, will mean you do a better job of it.
For more ideas about teaching and assessment, attend one of the following courses: