Why am blogging?
I am guest blogging on magicalmaths.org which makes it sound like I am an experienced blogger but you couldn’t be further from the truth if you thought so. This is actually my first blog post on teaching and learning. I have read a lot of blogs on education, business, finance, sports, leadership and personal development so I will draw on that experience though indirect. The simple truth is I got conned into doing this by @magicalmaths (in a nice way). As mentioned previously, I read a lot of blogs, kind of selfish when I think about it now. I am always taking information from others and giving nothing back, so when I sent @magicalmaths a message asking if he had a blog post on marking specific to Math, and he suggested I guest blog on it, I took on the challenge.
What do I intend to achieve?
The best marking strategy that gives my students the best feedback and enables them to maximize their learning while reducing the number of hours I spend. Hopefully I will achieve this through honest critique and practical suggestions made by readers of this post.
Marking, Marking, Marking
I am not sure about you but if there was one aspect of my job that I could outsource it would be marking but I also do appreciate that it is probably one of the most important as well. My personal definition; checking books/written work to ascertain how my teaching is impacting on learning and identifying possible areas of improvement for my students’ and myself. This is my personal view and I am sure others may hold a different view which I don’t think will be far from this.
What I used to do
I must confess it took me quite a few years to incorporate marking as part of the learning process. In my early years of teaching, I thought marking was for my head of department or senior leaders to check how I was doing. During those days, I would spend long nights and weekends marking, hand the books out in the next lesson and carry on as if nothing had happened. The odd few students would ask what I meant by my comments, but in the main they just carried on. I have a completely different view on marking now.
I realize marking is a process that should be planned for at the beginning of a topic or unit:
- At what points during this unit will I mark books?
- What will I expect them to be able to do at each point?
- How will I expect the gaps in learning to be filled after marking?
- How will I guide those who have met my expectations, in the right direction to stretch or challenge themselves to the next level/grade?
Marking on a day-to-day basis
I encourage my students to mark/assess their work regularly. This may be self or peer assessed. For this to be successful, a clear assessment criterion should be set. This ensures that my students receive regular feedback on their learning. They mark/assess their learning in green pen and I mark in red. The aim is to have far more green than red in their books.
Admittedly, there is something in it for me too; twice a half term when I ‘deep’ mark their books, I don’t have to micro mark every bit of work.
I do this for 3 main reasons:
1. To confirm to students, the grade they are working at. I use the word confirm because the use of graded lesson objectives, regular self or peer assessment and use of AFL in lessons ensures that students have a fair idea what grade they are working at.
2. Confirm or point out to them what I think they are doing well.
3. Lead them in the direction where I think they can improve.
When I hand back books,I give students the time to read my comments, reflect on what they are doing well, ask me any questions and write down any feedback. We then turn our attention to what they need to do to improve. I normally set them tasks to complete to show improvement and point them in the direction of resources to help. ( I find MathsWatch good for this).
Sometimes I create groups in the class with “experts” on each table so students can visit a table depending on what their target is.
This process may take a lesson or two but I personally think it is time well spent. Students buy into their personal improvement and as a teacher that is my primary objective ( I feel a whole new blog post is needed to explain this)
Enough of me…. for now
In the second part of this post, I will upload images to show how this works in practise. I would love to read some feedback that could be incorporated into that post.