I am of the opinion that of the many, many things a teacher can do to help their pupils, written marking isn’t really that great a choice. Not completely useless, mind you. Sometimes it really does the trick. It’s just ….not generally all that great, especially at primary level.
That’s why I read with much joy the independent report on reducing teacher workload in the area of marking and felt that I had to share some of the key points here.
Quotes (any passages in bold represent my emphasis):
“In many cases the view is that you must spend hours marking to be a good teacher; that writing pages of feedback makes you more effective; and that there is a link between the quantity of marking and pupil progress. These are myths that need to be debunked.”
“Marking has evolved into an unhelpful burden for teachers, when the time it takes is not repaid in positive impact on pupils’ progress. This is frequently because it is serving a different purpose such as demonstrating teacher performance or to satisfy the requirements of other, mainly adult, audiences. Too often, it is the marking itself which is being monitored and commented on by leaders rather than pupil outcomes and progress as a result of quality feedback.”
“The consequence of this skewed dominance of written feedback means that teachers have less time to focus on the most important aspect of their job – teaching pupils.”
“Deep marking often acts as a proxy for ‘good’ teaching as it is something concrete and tangible which lends itself as ‘evidence’. In some cases, the perception exists that the amount of marking a teacher does equals their level of professionalism and effectiveness. These are false assumptions.”
“There is little robust evidence to support the current widespread practice of extensive written comments.”
“If teachers are spending more time on marking than the children are on a piece of work then the proportion is wrong and should be changed.”
“Feedback can take the form of spoken or written marking, peer marking and self-assessment. If the hours spent do not have the commensurate impact on pupil progress: stop it.”
The full document can be downloaded here.