Meaningful Marking

Marking is something I’ve struggled to master. I know what I want it to achieve, but have gone through many iterations trying to get the process right. My approach has often given too much irrelevant feedback, or gone over the heads of students.

Target tracker marking sheet
The old approach: Plenty of targets, not enough solutions.

In the last few months I’ve given it a lot of thought – trying to make sure I focus on giving the feedback only a teacher can give – and make students as active as possible in the process.

This post by Tom Sherrington was just the inspiration I needed. My marking wasn’t having much effect because students didn’t know what to do with it. They had time to read, to respond, to mark off progress on a checklist, and give off every impression of my time being well spent, but they didn’t really act on it.

This week was different. During Thursday’s lesson I planned to spend three minutes with each student to work out precisely how well they were doing. Using Wednesday’s exit cards as a starting point, I posed them each a question just slightly harder than the last one they got correct the day before. As I watched their thinking process I filled out a WWW and EBI grid, and posed other questions until I got a comfortable feel for their understanding. Then I set them each three questions to take them one step further than they could already go, and told them that they’d have the chance to move up a level at the start of our next lesson if they could solve their new, personalised questions.

The new approach: Built around making visible progress

The student response was excellent. Two of them, without prompting, told me they were really glad I was showing them how to act on feedback as they often wanted to but were confused. It’s also meant that, for the first time, I’ve seen everyone respond meaningfully to marking. Every student pushed themselves to achieve the goals I set, and every one of them learned something new. Setting targets with the explicit steps needed to achieve them – that’s meaningful marking.

2 thoughts on “Meaningful Marking

  1. redorgreenpen

    This looks great! Did you really manage to fill out 25+ of those in a lesson though?!

    How often are you doing these nowadays? Every week?

    My main question is – how many of those pieces of paper contained the same content? If it was a sizeable proportion, do you think there’s a way to get the same effect with less admin time?

    Also, assuming that you hadn’t taught how to answer “is 53 in the sequence” type questions in class, how did they find out how to do it? Did they take it home and research? We’re encouraged to do marking dialogue responses in class, and I always feel that it’s actually a little unfair for the students – I’ve given them harder work and not told them how to do it! I’m setting them up for failure.

    1. Mr Thomas

      I can fill them all out in the lesson with a smaller class – with a big one I do it after a quiz/assessment sheet I design to find out exactly where students get stuck (generally playing on misconceptions and mistakes from recent exit cards). I aim for minimum of every fortnight.

      A lot contained a crossover of questions. I normally have a sheet of 10 or so questions I draw from, and write the most appropriate down for each student. I could get them to copy them from a list, but this doesn’t take that long and they do value the effort.

      I always make sure they have a clear way of learning to do the thing they’re extended on to – working on the assumption they don’t remember how to do it from class (which they probably don’t, or it would be a useless extension for them). Bare minimum is a MyMaths link, best case is a short video (I use Educreations on my iPad and can knock up and publish a video in a couple of minutes – takes less time than writing out and photocopying a worked example).

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