Is marking worth our time? What the research says.

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Dan

What if I told you that we do no marking in any of the kid’s books at our school? Interested? Read on.

Around the world, thousands of schools are forcing their teachers to mark their class’s work. A recent research survey completed by Schools Week found that 3 out of 5 teachers still complete a deep or triple mark once a week.

So what does the current research say about the marking and its value?

marking

Let’s start our research with A Marked Improvement?, the Education Endowment Foundations’s review of the impact marking can have. They found that “No high-quality studies appear to have evaluated the impact of triple impact marking”, they also stated that there was a “striking disparity between the enormous amount of effort invested in marking books, and the minimal number of robust studies that have been completed to date.”

Most current evidence has been completed by universities or English as a Foreign Language education. Most research discusses how children feel about the feedback and marking as opposed to what they learn due to the marking. The review also observed an absence of evidence about the impact of marking and feedback as opposed to the evidence of an absence of its impact. Still, it may at least push teachers to review how valuable marking or feedback is.

Elliott, V., Baird, J., Hopfenbeck, T., Ingram, J., Richardson J., Coleman, R. Thompson, I., Usher, N. and Zantout, M. (2016) A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking. Education Endowment Fund

So, we are questioning the value of standard marking. How should we use our time to impact our student’s learning? Marking is only one type of feedback. We could ask, ‘How have our classes used the feedback we gave them to meet their goals?’ rather than checking the marking frequency or how long our comments are. The research on feedback is wide, thick and usually contradictory, but John Hattie and Helen Timperley have written the preliminary review.  The Power of Feedback pushes us to think about three types of information that we give our students.

  1. What are their goals: “Where am I going?”
  2. What they have achieved: “How am I doing?”
  3. What must be changed: “Where next?”

The research shows that we should begin with feedback about the given task: this is often the most usual form of feedback. This can be a compelling way of helping our classes improve their level of work. This can, however, limit the class to only improving on their current activity because they don’t know how to use the feedback on other activities.

It is advised that feedback is given about the task processing to help the class get a deeper understanding of what they are doing. Feedback about self-regulation will help their class work on their learning behaviours.  This can all be productive, especially if they are completed together. An example would be if we gave our class feedback about the current activity and how to work better as a learner. 

On the other hand, Hattie and Timperley suggest staying away from feedback about the self as a person – and state that even though some children like praise, it often will help them improve as it does not give them information about their task.

Hattie, J. and Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), pp.81-112.

Hattie and Timperley emphasise, “How our classes understand the feedback is most important.” Another critical piece of research (Winstone et al., 2017) questioned how teachers can push their classes to enjoy and use the feedback appropriately, not just listen to it. Lots of different things can make this harder: bad communication from the teacher, poor listening skills in the class or even a bad attitude when it comes to school.

Even though the research agreed with the EEF’s results, there is little valuable evidence. The research suggested ways to help students review their current skill set, assess themselves and embrace the process. This could be done by giving the students model pieces of work to examine, pushing them to draft and redraft their work, and preparing them to react to feedback.

Winstone, N., Nash, R., Parker, M., and Rowntree, J. (2017) Supporting Learners’ Agentic Engagement With Feedback: A Systematic Review and a Taxonomy of Recipience Processes. Educational Psychologist, 52(1), pp.17-37.

One final example of encouraging your classes to engage with feedback. In this example, the teacher communicated their high expectations and believe that everyone in the class could match this standard. The teacher said: “I’m giving you these comments because I have high expectations, and I know you can reach them.” The students who understood and engaged with this message were much more likely to redraft their work without being asked and, as a result, see their marks improve.

Yeager, D., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., Hessert, W., Williams, M. and Cohen, G. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), pp.804-824.

Marking in schools probably takes up the most time for any teacher. The research above shows that its value and impact on a child’s progression and development are questionable. Therefore is it worth our time? The amount it adds to our workload is huge. Could we use our time in a better way?

How do we at our school give feedback?

At our school, we have created a system called Fast Feedback. This system focuses on the children getting one-to-one conferences with the teacher rather than written feedback in their books. The teacher never writes in the students’ books at all. We still do peer marking, and of course, we still look in their books to make sure that they have got the work correct for assessment purposes, but we, as teachers, don’t write in their books.

FAQ

Q: What is individual feedback assessment?

A: Individual feedback assessment is a form of evaluation that provides specific and personalized feedback to students on their performance. It focuses on providing constructive criticism about what they did well, where they need improvement and strategies for achieving better results.

Q: Why is individual feedback assessment considered the most practical assessment for children’s learning?

A: Individual feedback assessment is considered the most beneficial form of assessment because it allows teachers to provide personalized guidance to each student based on their strengths and weaknesses. This approach helps students understand where to focus their efforts to improve their performance, leading to more effective learning outcomes.

Q: How does individual feedback differ from other assessments, such as standardised tests?

A: Standardized tests are usually one-size-fits-all evaluations that measure a student’s performance against predetermined criteria. In contrast, individual feedback assessments are tailored to each student’s needs and allow teachers to provide detailed information about areas where students need improvement and strategies for achieving success.

Q: Can individual feedback assessments be time-consuming for teachers?

A: Providing detailed feedback can be time-consuming; however, it is worth the effort as it leads to more effective learning outcomes. Teachers can use digital tools like online rubrics or voice recordings to streamline the process and save time while providing valuable feedback.

Q: How can parents support their child’s learning through individual feedback assessments?

A: Parents can support their child’s learning by reviewing the teacher’s feedback with them and discussing strategies for improvement. They can also ask teachers questions about how best to support their child at home based on the specific areas needing improvement.

Q: Are any resources available for schools interested in implementing individual feedback assessments?

A: Yes! Many online resources offer guidance on how best to implement individualized assessments in the classroom. Some examples include Edutopia’s “Guide To Personalized Learning” (https://www.edutopia.org/personalized-learning-guide), ASCD’s “Formative Assessment Strategies” (http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109074/chapters/Formative-Assessment-Strategies.aspx), and TeachThought’s “10 Assessments You Can Perform In 90 Seconds Or Less” (https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/10-assessments-you-can-perform-in-90-seconds-or-less/).

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