It is a well-known fact that a build-up of marking is enough to completely demoralise, dishearten and discourage the majority of teachers. This can trigger feelings of dejection, disillusionment and even depression with the most resilient of teachers. It can make us feel the need to capitulate into hibernation any place where the marking is not! I will be referring to this teaching quandary as ‘Marking Mount’.
Let’s face it, there are teachers that frequently mark work and those that don’t. Some may plan to mark more stringently but become overwhelmed with the enormity of the task! Somewhere in-between, lies the place where we frantically tread water and marking is completed by the skin of our teeth, literally minutes before returning it to the group whose work we were marking (hypothetically speaking, of course)!
How does it happen where one minute we are smugly on top of our marking… then at-work and external commitments intervene? We then become increasingly chaotic in our ability to organise the task. Before we even have time to process what has happened, ‘Marking Mount’ has boldly assembled itself right behind us!
Don’t despair! Here’s some pro-active solutions to this perennial predicament! Constructive summative marking (alongside existing formative methods) wields the power to improve relationships with learners, enhance trust and brighten-up the dullest of topics:
Tip 1: Inform learners of the date their work will be returned to them:
You will need to be bold with this option as you coerce yourself into achieving your own target. Your statement could sound something like this: “Well done for submitting your coursework, the results will be back with you by…” If you want to maintain credibility with your students, you will make sure you meet your own marking target!
Tip 2: Create a ‘Non-Contact Time Marking-Timetable’ (marking is completed at work in non-teaching periods):
This option is never going to be completely fool-proof if cover lessons appear! It is undoubtedly part of the daily make-up of the teaching week that we have to roll our sleeves up and accept: Here’s a plan we can follow:
- Highlight periods of non-contact time in our timetable
- Make a note of which work to mark in this time
- Plan where to will mark the work (a quiet classroom perhaps?)
The structure for your marking timetable is set. Realistically, you have to accept that it will need constant adjustments for it to succeed to take some pressure off you.
Tip 3: Design an ‘Out-of-Hours Marking-Timetable’:
Create a weekly planner of work to mark and set the days, times and places to get it all done! Just before marking, take a deep breath in and get your favourite takeaway delivered! Follow the 5-Second Rule of motivational guru, Mel Robbins and count down from five to one before thrusting yourself into it! Once you decide it WILL be done then it HAS to be. Furthermore, your group is expecting it, especially if you have followed Tip 1 above and told them when their work will be returned to them!
Tip 4: Prioritise which work you mark and when (based on when you see your groups):
Revisit your teaching timetable and ensure you have marked their work in the order of when you teach them. What if you have set a deadline and some have not submitted? Don’t delay, mark the submitted work. This should also motivate the rest to submit and will have your constructive feedback to look forward to! Most learners will not care about your marking pile as long as you are providing individual feedback to them!
Tip 5: Collaborate with a colleague:
In the words of John C. Maxwell: “Teamwork makes the dream-work!” This is potentially the most productive option: You designate a time with a colleague where you ‘lock’ yourselves in a room and ‘sign’ a verbal pact with a firm handshake, agreeing that you will not leave the room until your marking is complete! You then become accountable for each other, which can create pressure at first, but you will without question, thank each other when the task is complete!
Our learners want to see a quick turnaround with results and are willing us to be great at marking! To conquer ‘Marking Mount’, sustainability needs to be our primary thought. We must create pragmatic marking strategies to reduce stress-levels that high volumes of marking can cause, when not managed effectively. Sharing good practice with colleagues regarding personal ‘Marking Mount’ expeditions will help to figure out your best options to utilise at various times in the hectic academic year!
About the author
Fabian A Darku
Fabian Darku is a fully qualified Teacher and has worked in Secondary and Further Education establishments since 2008. He is currently a Lecturer of Sport in Further Education. He has Masters Degrees in Teaching and Learning (2013) and Sport and Culture (2004). He also achieved a Sports Sciences and Leisure Management Joint Honours Degree (2002). He has the desire to improve teaching practice through reflective methods by producing positive action plans. He has a drive to ensure teaching styles invigorate learners to produce positive outcomes for development. He regularly updates his current knowledge of teaching practice and is an avid reader of educational blogs. His interests are writing and producing content on teaching strategies to make working practices more structured and consistent. His experience of five years in Secondary Education and five in Further Education have equipped him with the skills to motivate and maintain the highest aspirations of learners.