Sunday, 3 March 2019

Just another marking Monday

Over the years, I have seen various approaches to marking. Some good. Some bad. Some as quick as a sneeze. Some as slow as a snail with a limp.

The problem we have with marking has always been how time consuming it is. You do have to read things and there’s no getting away from it. However, the marking tells you if the students have understood what was taught or that they can use a skill. Really it is the measuring stick for all we do. Yet, we have a problem with it. Nobody has it fixed.

I am a big fan of ‘live marking’ as you addressing issues at the point of work. You can make quick fixes and check if things have been understood.

I have issues, personally, with ‘whole class feedback sheets’ for they publicly highlight success and failure. I like them for ease, but I have seen them photocopied for students and they name students and highlight the strengths and sometimes the weaknesses of them. All stuck in an exercise book. 

My school has been working to having more systematic approach to marking and I am finding it interesting and rewarding.

The process is pretty simple. During the learning, students are given a ‘mid-learning’ task to see what input is needed. We call them simply ‘learning check points’. They are little yellow sheets and the student completes the task on it. 

Then, the teacher gives it a tick. Secure. Partial. Limited. Phew. That’s a lot of work. In fact, it doesn’t take long. I can do a set in ten minutes. And they generate quite a bit of information.

From the information, I can target the class in three clear groups. Secure. Partial. Limited. I can then address areas for improvement. These are from a Year 11 lesson on Paper 2 Question 2: 
Secure – you need to explore the symbolism of inference. How does it link to the wider world.
Partial – you need to develop your inference by saying ‘because… so… as…’
Limited – you need to follow the statement / quotation / inference structure

I am able to make quick judgement and then I identify areas for improvement and provide an extension task.

Finally, I feedback the sheets to the class. Give students time to address the problem in their writing and stick the sheet in their books.

As a system, it is quick, effective and incredibly helpful. I don’t have to take in thirty exercise books and search for the right page. I don’t have to read pages and pages of stuff. Simply, I have a paragraph to read and that’s it. From that paragraph, I can see where they are in relation to the learning and then I can adapt my teaching. The paragraph is the perfect unit for checking learning in English.

For me, the judgement element is important. Making a judgement is important for students and teachers. Is it good? How good am I in relation to others? Feedback is great, but we do want to know where we are in relation to others. That’s where the secure, partial and limited come in.
For Key Stage 4, I have found this approach quite effective for addressing exam questions. It has allowed me to be precise in feeding back what the problems are in responding to the question. I have narrowed their focus and then as a result narrowed my focus. If I can't see it in that one paragraph, then I can't give them the mark. Therefore, they have to ensure it is there in that paragraph - and every paragraph in the exam answer- so it narrows their focus. It has really allowed for greater level of precision for teachers and students. 
For Key Stage 3, I think this has opened up the marking and the work. It has allowed us to move away from the assessment questions and allowed us to explore other avenues related to the texts studied. 
I think it is important that we talk and share different marking methods and approaches. Each school is a different context and needs a different approach. We do need to keep the marking dialogue going. 
Thanks for reading, 

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