Teacher workload is one of the most contentious talking points in the profession. In particular the volume of grading we are required to do. There is no doubt that it is, in part, essential to gain insights into the understanding of your pupils. But are we overdoing the volume of work we mark or have senior leaders started to see that we can understand our students learning in other ways? Quality rather than quantity of grading; we should question whether the students are really gaining anything from excessive over corrections before installing grading policies.
The English school’s standards officiator, Ofsted, stated they wanted to see progress “over time” and schools demonstrated this in their student’s books. Their learning journey easily depicted through a semester worth of annotation by their teacher. But we think there is another way to ensure all students are learning and we are not spending hours each night grading.
1. Flipped Learning
A flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. Students come to class already with the knowledge enabling them to apply it to further their understanding through traditional homework activities such as questions. Helping those students who need it most as you hover and mark where necessary. You will gain much more insight into students ability whilst they are applying knowledge rather than taking notes. Not to mention homework is often “graded for completion” and does not give students any meaningful feedback.
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2. Get rid of tick and flick
Recent research has demonstrated students only learn more from a written teacher comment if it comes without a mark. I cannot confirm whether this is true but it does lead to questioning whether the much used “tick and flick” is any use to students. We should be concentrating on a few meaningful comments structured around the learning objective to ensure students can make the best progress.
3. Peer grading
This educational tool, often implemented by teachers, allows students to judge and mark their peers work. Students gain insights into both the correct answer and common errors whilst the teacher benefits from less grading. However, it is essential to give grading guidelines and exemplary answers for this to be accurate.
4. Write less
Class grading can fall within this category, instead of grading individual work a teacher would identify common themes across the class and deliver the feedback to everyone. This means students will learn all the potential errors and identify good exam practice. This provides students with timely feedback and takes less time for the teacher. It can impact what is taught in the next lesson as any common errors are addressed or topics revisited.
5. Whole staff room culture change
This is often led by the Principal or Deputy but can be just a culture change. Many staff rooms regularly complain about grading but then spend their whole evening grading books. Whether it comes from the top or as part of a professional development day, it is essential teachers don’t put pressure on each other to mark more. We need to ensure our teacher mental health is of paramount importance and that involves a good work/ life balance.
There is an abundance of self-grading products on the market, from the simple (Google Forms) to the personalized (Quizalize). We should be making use of these technologies for class and homework. Use the data and draw conclusions, spend our time doing the things computers can’t and give each student a personalized learning journey to optimize their results.
We can’t eliminate grading altogether. It is essential to know where students are in their learning and prescribe the next element of the course accordingly. Formative assessment is vital to making a change in the outcome of their learning journey and as a teaching profession, we constantly assess. Grading is only one of these strategies and ensuring we are creative in our teaching methods will enable us to have a balanced life.