The endless nights of marking

“There is remarkably little high-quality, relevant research evidence to suggest that detailed or extensive marking has any significant impact on pupils’ learning.”

Sean Harford, HMI National Director for Education

We’ve all been there. Pulling our hair out at 10.30pm, still only halfway through the mound of English books staring menacingly back at us from the living room carpet. Wondering how it is within the realms of possibility that such a large proportion of our class have completely forgotten, or worse still, chosen to downright ignore the importance of capitalising one’s proper nouns in a narrative. Our frustration builds, as these relatively minor, yet increasingly frequent infractions give way to lazy spelling, fragmented sentences and inexplicable changes of tense. Before we know it, ‘Daisy’s’ book is drowning in a pool of red ink faster than we’re downing our glass of red wine.

Reassuringly, there is another way.

What is a ‘No Marking Policy’ and why should we use one?

The term ‘No Marking Policy’ is something of a misnomer.

It does not advocate, as one might think, for the complete abandonment of writing feedback in pupils’ exercise books.

What it should do is the following:

  1. Provide the most effective feedback using the most efficient methods
  2. Maintain and improve the progress of pupils
  3. Reduce teacher workload in terms of ‘out-of-lesson’ marking

The scenario above is unlikely to achieve any of these goals.

Alternatively, a policy that only permits ‘live’ marking during lessons often satisfies the first criterion, as the feedback is timely and concise rather than being scanned over at the start of the following lesson. It also gives learners the opportunity to instantly achieve the second aim of progress; from someone who has written an ungrammatical sentence to one who has demonstrated as a result of feedback, the ability to correct their errors*. Finally, and most obviously, there’s no lugging books home at the end of the day.

This is not to say, of course, that these books shouldn’t be read by teachers. However, rather than write the same feedback multiple times, spoon-feed spellings and struggle through colour-code highlighting, simply noting the overall strengths and areas for improvement is often more beneficial. This can then form the basis of the following lesson, where whole-class, mixed-ability pairs or independent activities can be set to edit and improve the writing from the previous day. Any written feedback should be reserved for those pupils who would be unable to identify errors in their work even after following scaffolded examples.

Other examples of policy in schools that have trialled such methods include:

  • Peer marking in subjects such as Maths, where most work is objectively correct or incorrect.
  • ‘Live’ checking of lesson objectives.
  • Self-marking prompt sheets as pupils learn the process of effective proofreading.
  • Using technology to capture exemplars of pupil work, explanations of concepts or a practical component of a lesson.

*The MITA triangle, discussed here is an excellent, simple guide to maximise independence in discovering the ‘correct answer’.

How can Juniper help?

Juniper’s over-arching ambition is to provide teachers with More Child-Time, by enabling them to work smarter instead of harder. Here’s how we can deliver the Right-Fit Tools for schools looking to do this:

Right-Fit ToolMore Child-Time
Formative assessment features across all trackers allow teachers to assess pupils against objectives during lessons.

Avoids ‘double-handling’ of ticking success criteria in exercise books then recording this progress electronically.

 

Single pupil view can give pupils personalised feedback in a user-friendly graphical format.Quicker and more effective than giving feedback and targets verbally.
Summative assessment judgments can be easily made by monitoring formative progress.No need for extensive moderation for summative assessment.
Observations (photos and videos) can be recorded against statements as evidence of pupil attainment.Eliminates requirement to write details of what has been observed.

COVID makes NOW the time for change

Teachers are currently facing the unenviable task of filling the gaps of the last six months, in bubbles that are increasingly likely to burst due to new cases. They are balancing remote learning with classroom teaching; ever aware further lockdowns remain a strong possibility. They are dealing with the largest ranges in ability; an aftermath of the vastly different home-learning environments and attitudes of society. They are, in many cases, spending their lunch breaks eating with the children and their playtimes supervising them. Their PPA has been reduced because of restrictions on movement between bubbles. Their anxieties over their own health, as well as that of their families and pupils is the highest it has ever been.

If ever there was the perfect opportunity to trial a system which handed time back to teachers, it is now.

Martin Crow

Martin Crow

A former teacher and P.E. Lead of 11 years, Martin has worked in primary schools across England and Australia. He has written on a freelance basis for a variety of online and print publications, predominantly on two of his greatest passions, sport and education. He is now Customer Success Manager at Juniper.