Marking: What Would Happen If You Never Marked Another Book?

Marking: a pile of exercise books

You’d be hard-pressed to find a teacher that sees a benefit in marking a mountain of 32 exercise books – the students glance over the feedback, rarely act on it and it takes the teacher an inordinate amount of time to provide so-called ‘quality’ marking.

Oddly, you’d also be hard-pressed to find a school that doesn’t have an unusual (sometimes draconian) marking policy that dictates the colour of, frequency and nature of the marking that must take place. 

Marking has become something teachers do to appease senior leaders and their interpretation of Ofsted frameworks.

So what would happen if you never marked another book?

You’d Have Time to Focus Elsewhere

First and foremost, you’d find yourself with a lot of free time to get stuff done. You could focus that time into your planning, self-directed CPD and dare we say it, on your social life. Marking accounts for, on average, 6.3 hours of a teacher’s week. That’s a lot of freed up PPA time and a few evenings, weekends and possibly mornings to boot.

Your Verbal Feedback Would Be More Meaningful

Some schools are ditching ‘marking’ policy in favour of ‘feedback’ policy – letting teachers best decide how they deliver feedback to their students and actually spending time with your students to clear up misconceptions and highlight common mistakes. Some teachers have begun employing ‘feedback meetings’ with students to ensure that they’re given undivided attention to great success for students and teacher alike.

You’d Be Much More Motivated in the Classroom

Nothing dampens enthusiasm more than the dread of something hanging over your head all day. When you know you’ve got two sets of Year 10 books that need marking (even worse if your school still demands triple marking), that dread and reluctance bleeds through into your attitude all day. Without the metaphorical weight of ‘admin’ over your head all day, you can focus on teaching and being in the moment.

Leaders Would Have to Rely on Something Other Than Marking Data

Numbers and data are safe – and they’re easy to interpret. Numbers up = good. Numbers down = bad. On the surface, data tells a leader that you didn’t (or did!) do your job ‘properly’. If you didn’t mark another book, leaders and Ofsted would have to devise another method to assess your performance and the performance of your students. We’d like to imagine it involves conversations and dialogue instead of cold, raw numbers.

The World Would Not Fall Apart

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the world wouldn’t fall apart if you stopped marking books. You’d still teach. You’d still offer meaningful feedback in other ways. You’d still look after the wellbeing of your students. 

Teachers are often creatures of habit and certain mainstays of the profession are perhaps getting long in the tooth yet held on to out of sheer habit. I’m sure plenty of teachers argued that the cane was ‘essential’ when people began questioning its effectiveness as a method of behaviour management. We’re quick to discard fads, bonkers ideas and stuff that generally makes no sense – why do we hold on to marking?

Imagine, for a moment, if marking had never existed. Glorious isn’t it?

While you’re in that daydream, imagine a senior leader telling you that you’ve suddenly got to spend 6 hours of your week writing down everything your students didn’t do in their books.

You’d laugh them out of the meeting, surely.

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You might also want to read:
Making Marking Manageable

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