How do we cut down the marking frenzy?
On Friday, December 4th 2015, I delivered a keynote at the SSAT National Conference: Leading Learning.
Cut through the waffle, reduce workload
During my mainstage presentation at the SSAT National Conference 2015, I raced through one-hundred-and-fifty slides in just forty minutes. Throughout, I gave answers to the question ‘How would you reduce the burden of marking, planning and teaching for teachers?’
This week, the SSAT are sharing five short films taken from my presentation. They are:
- What is a good teacher?
- Do we really need lesson plans?
- Marking is broken
- How we cut out the marking frenzy
- Flying Start.
Click to play
How do we do this? How do we address this marking frenzy and start to focus on what’s important? In my school, we are developing our teaching and learning policy, a one-page summary. Behind it will sit the detail with examples and already this policy is 20 pages long! Now I know already, no-one is going to read it, so I’ve got to make it concise – cut the waffle out and go straight to the point.
We’ve moved to Google, we’re a Google school and it’s superb for workload – there’s no more saving version 12, version 13, version 14, of different documents … as you work, it’s there online and it’s live. Even in the first week of our using it last September, you could see staff starting to collaborate on particular presentations, or the students too. It was superb! If you’re not using Google, I would highly advocate it for you.
Within the one-page summary, there is series of bold keywords, hyperlinked which lead to more detailed information, such as examples and photos of best practice. We hope to have one-page summaries in classroom displays and it will be used in our teacher planners and that staff will know it and understand it.
I must emphasise that we don’t want everyone to use the same model, but we do want some consistencies to help raise standards.
We introduced an MER (monitoring, evaluation and review) cycle to steady the workflow and workloads, so staff knew what was coming in terms of trying to improve the work that we do.
It’s on my blog here if you want to grab a copy.
So, in terms of marking, this is what is says in the ‘mark’ section of our learning policy. We want teachers to have a ‘secure overview’ of all their students; knowing their data inside-out and understanding the progress of students.
Formative feedback: we introduced the Yellow Box. A mechanism for reducing workload and for developing marking and feedback to be more meaningful and direct so that students could act on feedback.
Marking should be regular. If marking is not happening, then it’s not regular. How you define that is up to the curriculum leader. The frequency is proportionate to curriculum time.
The marking code is still developing, but again, we aren’t going to beat teachers over the head with a stick about this. Yes, we want teachers to mark books, but more importantly we want students to act on the feedback that they receive.
We know from John Hattie among others that if feedback is meaningful and sophisticated it can aid progress, significantly. And as Mary Myatt has brilliantly pointed out, “we want higher quality, not truckloads of ticks … and fewer things done really well”.
Recently, we looked at the way our new marking policy was working and still I’ve got teachers just ticking, ticking, ticking, ticking … absolutely wasting their time, with no value to the student whatsoever. So, it’s just best not to do it.
Finally, Ofsted does not expect to see a frequency of marking. Ofsted does not expect unnecessary written dialogue between student and teacher.
I’ve written about verbal feedback stamps. They might work for you, but I don’t think they work; verbal feedback should be ‘verbal’. You shouldn’t be stamping books to prove something for somebody else!