Marking: how to ensure it’s always meaningful, manageable and motivating

Blog: Claire Flynn, Primary Development Lead

Marking: how to ensure it’s always meaningful, manageable and motivating

Posted: 12/04/16

The age-old issue of teachers’ workload – with particular reference to marking and gathering evidence – is a hot topic for discussion right now. And rightly so.

The NCETM has just published ‘Marking and Evidence Guidance for Primary Mathematics Teaching’, and Department for Education’s Independent Teacher Workload Review Group recently put out a paper entitled ‘Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking’.

Of course, we believe schools should have flexibility and freedom to decide their own marking policy, and what evidence should be collected for each pupil. However, for too long schools have been caught up in a spiral of evidence-gathering (be it for senior leaders, Ofsted or whomever else) without really considering the ultimate purpose of marking. A positive impact on pupil attainment.

We are pleased to see the marking guidance we give our Mathematics Mastery partner schools is echoed in both recently published papers.

The NCETM guidance rightly points out ‘the most important activity for teachers is the teaching itself, supported by the design and preparation of lessons’. And the DfE guidance correctly states that any marking taking place during or after lessons should be done so ‘with a view to improving or enhancing the future performance of pupils’.

We have always believed both marking and evidence-gathering should be completed in a meaningful and manageable way, and it should always be of quality rather than quantity.

The Mathematics Mastery ‘Next Steps for Depth’ are designed with this in mind. Teachers are encouraged to use these symbols in two ways.

In advance of a lesson, they can be used when planning to ensure tasks are adapted to offer support or challenge for pupils.

They can be used during a lesson, as part of the marking process and given to pupils identified as either needing more support or more challenge within a task.

We do not envisage our partner schools will give all pupils a ‘next step’ in each and every lesson. We encourage our teachers to use their professional judgement and ensure the next lesson is designed to take account of the next steps (as reiterated in the NCETM guidelines).

Also, it is important to remember that Ofsted recognise in their 2015 School Inspection Handbook that ‘feedback can be written or oral and they do not expect a written record of oral feedback’.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no expectation that “VF” (to indicate verbal feedback) be added to pupils’ work either. In fact, the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group identifies this as an example of ineffective practice.

With this in mind, a conversation with a pupil in your class – there and then – may be the most effective way of improving their performance.

Of course teachers should check their pupils’ work for  ‘slips’ and errors that reflect a lack of understanding and pupils should be encouraged to respond through further practice where needed. This ensures that marking is always meaningful, manageable and motivating – designed to enhance pupil performance and deepen understanding.

Looking for more ideas for your lessons? Take a look at our free classroom resources.

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Schools who join our programme receive a variety of adaptable materials, along with
in-depth training and support, to help you design and deliver lessons more effectively and support your professional development.