The marking treadmill


I profess to be no expert when it comes to marking, although I work with colleagues who excel at it and seemingly enjoy the process.   After reading a number of blog posts and tweets this weekend, alongside an increasing number of late nights due to marking I am left wondering where the balance lies and who we are marking for.

A few weeks into term and I have already marked hundreds of pieces of work, remarked work and set time aside for marking scrutiny’s and there appears to be no sign of the treadmill stopping. I read a blog post this week, in which each teacher was being told to keep a record of their marking, including when worked had been marked again, presumably to allow for the students making changes or becoming involved in a dialogue. I wonder who this record is for, how will this benefit the student, will the marking not be evidenced through discussions with the students or even observations of lessons?

I have also experienced fervent parental engagement this week; parents rightly, have their own children uppermost in their thoughts and actions, but this doesn’t mean they are qualified or have enough understanding to make effective judgements.  In fact, when parents start posting their children’s books on social media – perhaps we have to question if we are even marking for our students at all.

I see the value of marking and enjoy the creativity and effort students put in, however I feel there is a fine line between marking to assess or moving learning forward and ticking boxes in an admin driven evidence trail. I feel in some situations the second has taken the lead and I wonder how it can be reversed? This pressure is not coming from my school leadership, I am fortunate to work in a place where staff have complete autonomy and are given the professional space to make their own judgements.  So perhaps it is coming from the students – well I am confident that whilst they like making progress and want to learn, they would be happy with less formal work to complete.

So I suppose the final thought is how do we ensure marking is sustainable and how do we ensure it’s for the benefit of our students and their learning journeys? Answers on a postcard please*.

Rachael Green @DHSBGeography


3 thoughts on “The marking treadmill”

  1. Great piece. It is right that we have this dialogue. We know that regular, effective feedback makes a difference but we are the professionals and must make the decisions about how to manage this for our students.

    1. Marking / feedback must be for the pupils. I have often felt the pressure to mark for a parents’ evening, inspection, or a headteacher… but ultimately, if it is not for the pupils we have to question why are we doing it. I now have the experience and confidence not to mark every piece of work. When I quality mark, I make sure I find time for the pupils to read, reflect and act upon the feedback – again if we don’t find time for this, why have we spent hours doing it? (The use of colour-coded highlighters works very well as pupils can quickly see their successes an areas to improve on) Class marking can be very powerful, particularly during or immediately after a task as you can intervene at the point of leaning.
      In summary, mark if it will be for the benefit of pupils’ learning, otherwise your time is probably better spent doing something else.
      Nick Kibblewhite (English teacher / parent)

      1. Thank you for your comment Nick, I agree with many things that you have said, the important part of the learning process is the students having time to reflect, respond and then gain further feedback. This should be a continuous system for it to be effective.

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