With reports of teachers spending 60 hours a week working, there is always a need to consider how we can make life just a little bit easier. However many teachers quite rightly feel that time marking pupils’ work is simply one area which cannot be eaten in to – there is just no substitute for the feedback which pupils receive from properly marked work.
Our Teaching & Learning INSET focused on ideas that might help staff find ways to reduce the time spent marking, but without losing the quality of feedback which pupils receive. We wanted to look at how we could help students progress with effective and timely feedback and think about whether we are giving pupils the information and time they need to reflect and understand how they can improve in the future. As usual, in our small working groups, staff discussed what they currently do, their concerns and problems, and we shared ideas and tried to support each other in finding ways to reduce time but increase the impact of our marking strategies. We started by marking a piece of work individually and then looking at the ways we had approached this. Did we take the same amount of time? Did we find the criteria for marking helpful? What are we looking for when we mark? how long did it take and could we reduce the time taken?
Thanks to @Listerkev, Helen Wilson and Sarah Lofthouse have been trialling a system known as RAG123, where books are marked much more often (every lesson in an ideal world) and pupils take part in the marking by assessing both their effort and understanding. This powerpoint was discussed in the INSET, but there is lots more detail in this blog post (and the related links within it) from @ListerKev and on twitter using the hashtag #RAG123. The powerpoint used in our INSET also includes quotes from our own pupils when feedback was discussed by the student voice group. Some staff (eg Fiona Pinkerton in Science) use the idea of “Praises and Raises” codes – pupils receive a code in their book which they can then relate to a list of strengths and targets and find their specific feedback. There was a great deal of discussion about how the different ideas could be applied to various subjects and many staff thought about particular adaptions that they would make to a variety of ideas raised.
Moving onto the feedback we give to pupils, staff were asked to brainstorm about what would be totally ineffective and unhelpful feedback. We then looked at how we could address these issues. Examples included making feedback in a timely fashion and allowing pupils sufficient time to act on targets given. Through our student voice group, we also had thought from pupils about what was helpful to them when receiving feedback through marking – these ideas can be seen on the Power point.
A sheet of ideas about reducing marking workload was given to staff before they were asked to give some feedback to the T&L team on the INSETs run this year and also add their own ideas to some “Magic Marking” stars (some of these are already on the staff noticeboard, others will appear on the blog in a later post, in the T&L newsletter and on more cards for the black boxes).
Marking and feedback are a continual source of discussion among teachers, and there no real “right” answers. There are other ideas to read from Belmont Teach in this article. Hopefully you will find something in all of this to try for yourself – if you do, and you want to share you adaptations with us, please get in contact via twitter or email.