The Burden of Marking and How to Beat It
The huge amount of marking that teachers are expected to do puts an inordinate amount of pressure on workloads and is a major bugbear for many UK schools. This load only increases for primary teachers of pupils in years five and six, who are tasked with teaching ten different subjects at a higher level.
The issue of marking has become so wide-reaching across education, that in 2016, the Government published a report Eliminating Unnecessary Workload around Marking created by an independent teacher workload review group. The group’s Chair, head teacher Dawn Copping, said; ‘Whilst we learnt a lot along the way one message was very clear: marking practice that does not have the desired impact on pupil outcomes is a time-wasting burden for teachers that has to stop.’
Following the publication of the report, Ofsted clarified that inspectors should not be passing judgement on the quality or quantity of marking in schools. However, teachers are tasked with providing evidence of pupil progress, and one way teachers are trying to do this is through extensive and detailed marking and assessment.
In an article by The Guardian which discusses marking policy, teacher and author, Sue Cowley, emphasised that marking should be far less immersive, she said; ‘We still need to show children that we look at their individual work, but we need a balance of ‘tick-and-flick’ and marking for specific errors […] You can’t close mark everything, and you don’t need to mark everything. But we still need to make marks on children’s writing, not least because it’s an acknowledgement of their effort.’ So, pupils’ expectations should be set so that they do not expect every piece of work they complete to be ‘criticised’, but that their effort will always be acknowledged.
The issue of marking is one that starts early in a teacher’s career. It is thought that current teacher training courses are failing to give their students sufficient guidance on marking, leading to knowledge gaps in one of the most important and time-consuming aspects of teaching for NQTs.
There are lots of tips and tricks online to help you to cut down on the amount of time you spend marking.
Teacher Toolkit has a great blog post which gives a quick run through of ten different marking strategies, including mastery marking, find and fix, and traffic lights. If you use, or are looking to introduce, a traffic light system for your marking, PTS has a fantastic range of traffic light stampers that can take the pain out of pupil assessment.
Burts Drama’s blog is a little more practical, with ideas for rotas, finding your ideal marking time, peer assessment and creating actionable ‘even better if’ statement. We have a great range of stampers to support you with ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’, check it out here.
In a fantastic article for the Guardian, teacher and ‘super marker’ Sarah Findlater, laid out her top tips for reducing marking stress and saving time. These include; focussing on one key area for each piece of work, and marking that aspect only, rewarding achievement rather than looking at work from a critical point of view only (‘I don’t care what anyone says, everyone loves a sticker’), sharing marking criteria with pupils and encouraging them to do peer marking with their study buddies, and finally, setting up one-on-one marking meetings with older pupils. Check out a fantastic self/peer/teacher assessed triple stamper here.
How Can We Help?
Whilst saving you time on your marking, PTS personalised stampers are perfect for rewarding and motivating your pupils. What’s more, as you can personalise the text on all of these stampers, you can customise each one to fit in with your personal or school marking scheme, or add your name for a more personal touch.
The Pedagogs Marking Scheme
We have a great range of Pedagogs stampers to help speed up your marking, which use small images to highlight different issues or positives on a pupil’s work. To help your pupils get to grips with this fantastic marking scheme, we have also created classroom posters which explain the purpose of each stamper. The stampers are a handy size, so you can easily use them in the margins of exercise books.
Save Time with a Best Seller
One of our most popular stampers allows you to feedback to your pupils on a range of common literacy errors, with just a quick stamp and a few ticks. The ‘Remember to’ stamper can be used to easily deliver your thoughts on; using capital letters, full stops and commas, writing in full sentences, checking spelling, using joined-up handwriting, proof-reading and using a ruler. This great stamper can save you a huge amount of time when marking pupil work.
Pupils should be encouraged to reflect on their own work and be able to assess their own progress with particular skills. We have a great stamper and a related classroom poster, which can help your pupils to judge their current knowledge level and let you know how confident they are feeling with key tasks. Simply stamp it into exercise books and ask your pupils to tick either ‘I fully understand’, ‘I need more practice’, or ‘I do not understand yet’.
Over to You…
So, how are you coping with your marking workload? Is it manageable? Do you have any top tips for speeding up or reducing your marking times? What changes do you think could be made on a national level to reduce the burden on teachers? Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.