Everybody hates marking

I hate it. You hate it. And when the students receive their work, two months after they wrote it and with every failure highlighted in red ink with a full page comment on what they did wrong, they hate it too.

Everybody hates marking.

So how can we get through our pre-university Geography course without doing any? Well, the answer is: we can’t. But we can make our marking less time consuming, more positive and more impactful. I came across this blog post from Robin Neal about a year ago, and have found the advice to be excellent. My favourite suggestions from the page are:

  • Don’t mark entire essays all the time; choose a focus such as paragraphing, use of evidence, or introduction construction, and focus on that
  • Insist that the students do something with your feedback
  • Hold the grade ‘captive’ from the student until they give feedback that matches yours

I have a couple of extra tips of my own for getting through a big pile of marking, especially if that pile seems to keep on growing:

  • I never have more than two items of marking (e.g. a Year 9 test and Y12 essay) at any time. I plan not only when I’ll set the work and receive it in, but also when I will give it back to the students – I literally made a Google Calendar for this purpose. Having a limited number of things to mark can help me to focus and I often end up getting the work back before my personal deadline.
  • I give myself a deadline of two working weeks for marking a class set of work. As I say, it’s often just two or three days in reality.
  • I mark four or five pieces in a marking session, then switch to something else. I physically put the work into small piles and then take a break when I reach the end of the pile. It keeps me alert and helps me to keep going when I may otherwise give up.
  • I use lots of different coloured felt tips (markers) to mark, rather than the same colour pen. Who cares if it’s red, green, purple, orange – whatever, as long as it’s readable. By switching colours after each mini pile, or even after each student, I keep myself more focused. If I’m feeling inclined I sometimes even choose the colour depending on the student – orange for warm and friendly students, red for boisterous students, green for calm students and so on – but I never tell them what I’ve done, it’s just a bit of fun for me.

Everybody hates marking. But I hate it a little bit less than I used to now that I follow the rules above.

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