That dreaded pile of books (part 2): Why can’t teachers accept when they don’t need to mark?

Last time I blogged on this topic I talked about why I felt marking was important but that the gimmicks need to disappear.

I mark by just focusing on the geography by highlighting bits that are wrong for students to correct and commenting on how they could make an answer better geography. I can speed up the process, while still giving effective feedback, by skim reading students’ written extended writing and coming up with four common strengths and four common things that need to be added to make the geography better and sticking this feedback into student books while circling any points particularly relevant for that student. This way I can read a class set of books and ad the stickers in just over half an hour. I can then use what I’ve learnt from their work to plan my next few lessons to move their learning on.
But I’m hitting a problem in the subjects I line manage as I’ve been trying to get them to think differently about marking and I’ve been showing them how I do it.  

I’ve reduced the ask in terms of regularity of marking; it’s down to every three weeks. I’ve said they shouldn’t worry if their books are checked and they’ve not been marked for 2 weeks and 6 days because the expectation is every thee weeks. I’ve said teachers should not be ticking, commenting or giving feedback on general class notes or homework that can be peer or self assessed. Teachers can use stickers like the one I’ve described above.

The problem is they are still marking everything and it seems they just can’t not mark! Every page has comments on with things they want students to respond to or they have gone tick happy over everything. I’ve asked why and overwhelmingly the response has been ‘to prove to SLG I’m marking!’ But as SLG we’ve said they don’t need to mark this much – my dilemma is how to get the teachers to see this. We have been talking a lot about wellbeing and managing workload in SLG so it’s really disheartening to still see teachers hauling piles of books home to mark every page at the end of the day when we know this isn’t the most effective way of giving feedback and just creates an unsustainable cycle of work.

What can we do to get teachers to accept that it’s ok not to mark everything? That marking shouldn’t be unsustainable and the expectation that you could mark everything in depth is just that, unsustainable?

Answers on a postcard please!

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