I have been super-inspired (shout out to all the #GTTribe followers out there!) by Matt Miller’s book series, Ditch that Textbook and Ditch that Homework. Both of these publications are so revolutionary for teachers that they should be on every educator’s reading list (and by the way, here is my current list of books to get through - I will be writing a blog post real soon about why teachers must always be learners so watch this space!). The premise of the books is that those things that we are convinced are the way things must be (when was it ever conceivable that teachers wouldn’t need textbooks as their font of knowledge or that homework as a concept would become unnecessary in its traditional forms?) are in fact worth changing.
As shown in the change theory model above, Lewin suggests that change is almost always identical in its theoretical system. What I am proposing in this article is that we need to Ditch that Marking and will need to ensure we reach the stage where we reinforce the change through norms. Marking may well be something that Miller will address in a future publication, but as yet, I haven’t seen anything about this, although it is intimated in many guises. A 2016 study suggests that 17% of teachers are spending 11 hours or more per week on marking. And I think that is probably conservative as a statistic.
In fact, one of my most poignant Googly moments was when I had a pile of assessments to mark that I knew was going to take the best part of 4hours to get done. I seemed to be writing the same comments as feedback: “Use a quotation to support your argument”, “Include a religious view as an alternative” (I am a Religious Studies teacher if you didn’t know!), “Take care with the spelling of ….”. It got to me and made me realise that in writing the same comments, I was wasting time I could spend on meaningful feedback.
I decided to Ditch That Marking. Well...not quite. But I certainly ditched the way I had always done it. I asked myself the question: Why do I mark? And it gave me several answers:
I even used a variety of colours of pens:
At my daughter’s school they have a range of highlighters that teachers use - my personal favourite is the Yellow Highlighter of Doom (that’s what they call it!!!). This is on top of a rainbow-full of pens/highlighters and stickers.
Going back to why...I felt if I’m honest that #5 was the primary reason (To follow school policy (or to show leaders/OfSTED/parents/children that I was earning my crust!) when it should’ve been the previous four. If I was marking to jump through hoops, I needed ways to do what needed doing and then find a path to using marking to improve performance.
My journey began with trying electronic submission of homework: I simply asked students to email work or submit it in Google Docs. This meant that I could at least make comments electronically and copy & paste appropriately. This meant that I could then have time to type something more personal and bespoke for the students (and save these for future records to see if students actually responded!). The marking then became a dialogue, even an extension of how we worked in class, using Comments features in the applications (Docs and Slides primarily. This evolved into using Google Classroom as I became more competent. I really love GC - I think it should be the lanchpad for every class - if I were advising any educator to start somewhere, I would suggest here (and by the way, there are LOADS of resources, tips and tricks for making the most out of Classroom - you could even start here - Alice Keeler is one of the best! )
So, has this reduced my marking load? Yes in some ways but the next phase in my less-marking-world is split into 5 key suggestions, all of which are currently works in progress for me:
Marking as a discipline isn’t going away - and I don’t think it should. However, we do as educators need to keep looking at becoming more effective and efficient in this field so we don’t waste time. We don’t have enough of it as it is…
Please spread the love with this infographic.