Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Marking: Finding your style

Sue Cowley guides you through the marking maze

Teachers mark in a wide variety of ways. The marking style you choose also depends on the age range and subjects you teach. There is no harm in experimenting with different marking methods to see how effective you believe each one to be. Your choice of how to mark will depend, too, on your educational philosophies, the policies of your department or school and how much time you are willing to spend on this task. Here are some thoughts on the different options.

Marking styles

Tick and flick
This type of marking is exactly as it sounds: put a big tick (or cross) on each answer, then move straight on to the next. At the end of the work there may be a brief comment, such as ‘good work’ or ‘a fair attempt’, and a grade or a mark. Certain subjects or pieces of work demand this type of marking – for instance, a series of maths sums or a test on vocabulary learned. In other cases, this would not be the appropriate style of marking, such as a piece of creative writing or a long and detailed essay.
Close marking
This is what some people see as the idea (an unrealistic ideal in many cases). With close marking the teacher pinpoints and corrects every error – spelling, grammar, errors of fact or working. There are obviously advantages in this method, not least of which is that the child sees exactly where he or she is going wrong. However, for the weaker students this style of marking can be extremely destructive. If a student has worked hard on a piece which is then covered in red ink, this would be demoralising.
Marking for specific errors
This approach offers a good balance between ‘tick and flick’’ and close marking. It also encourages the students to focus on correcting their own work. The teacher pinpoints one area for which he or she will be marking. Examples could include: the correct spelling of certain words; the proper use of punctuation; showing detailed working; producing neat diagrams; correct use of technical terminology and so on.

Some time-saving tips

There are a number of ways that the enterprising teacher can save time with his or her marking.
Do it yourself
Ask the children to review and mark their own work before it is handed in. This is a very effective way of encouraging your students to reflect on what they have done. This self review also gives the teacher a starting point for his or her own marking. For instance, you might ask the child to write comments at the end of a piece on different areas of the work, such as spelling, punctuation, content and so on.
Swap and mark
This method is useful for tests with factual answers, for instance a maths or spelling test. The children swap their work with a partner and the teacher (or a child) reads out the answers as the students mark each others’ work.
Marking during lessons
It is possible, just sometimes, to find a lesson in which you can actually do some marking. This might be a period of silent reading, perhaps last thing on a Friday when the class is too tired to misbehave.
Marking non-written work
There can be a tendency to focus on the marking and assessment of what our children write. Oral and practical work also needs to be marked, and these assessments are usually best done when the work is actually taking place, thus saving the teacher time. For instance, a group of children might give a talk to the class, and you could mark their contributions as they do this.

This article is excerpted from Sue Cowley's How to Survive Your First Year in Teaching (2nd edition) andGuerilla Guide to Teaching (2nd edition) published by Continuum. 

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