Workload is the killing education. It is the number one concern of teachers, and it is sending conscientious teachers fleeing from the profession. I don’t have a magic answer for the increasing demands of the government, Ofsted and senior leadership teams around the country. However, I do have three suggestions that can help to make one of the most time-consuming parts of our daily routines become more manageable: marking.
- Get into a regular routine of marking at school. I know full well that it is almost impossible to get all your marking done at school, but I also know that by the time I have got home, put my son to bed, eaten (or not eaten my dinner) and sat down to start marking, I am not at my best. I am slow, sluggish and easily distracted: not a good state to mark accurately and provide concise, helpful feedback to my students! However, if I have completed an hour’s marking before I leave school, I have been able to absorb the mark-scheme with my ‘school-speed’ head on, and consequently with more clarity and effectiveness. Then, when I resume marking, at home, I have already built up some momentum to get me through more efficiently. Put simply- I know what I am doing. Try setting your alarm to an hour before you need to leave school and put whatever you were doing aside, then mark for your final hour. Trust me, it will make a world of difference!
- Time yourself. It is so easy to fall into the trap of spending twenty minutes marking the assessment of a student, who just hasn’t got it. But, that means you will undoubtedly end up spending three minutes marking another student’s work, as time runs out before Masterchef begins. That isn’t fair to the three-minute student, and do you seriously expect the twenty-minute student to appreciate the extra time you have spent over them? Will your mass of scribblings make sense to them, anyway? I now set my timer for 5 minutes for each student. This means that each student gets an equal amount of my time, and a reasonable amount of feedback. It also keeps me more focused and helps me to pick away at that huge pile of books more systematically.
- Limit your feedback. This is related to suggestion 2, but worth considering by itself. You may think that your annotations are helping your students, but how realistic is it for them to read through, understand and act on multiple annotations in every paragraph of their work? Feedback is only useful, if students have time to absorb it and act on it, so it is better to write less but make your students do more with it. Try limiting yourself to three annotations in an extended piece of work, then focus on one strength and one improvement in your summative feedback. This is infinitely more manageable for you and your students!
Give these suggestions a go, and see if they can help marking become more manageable for you.