My Marking Rant

My is for My Marking Rant: the futility of marking classwork

I accept that marking comes with the teaching territory but I really struggle with the rationale of marking classwork.

I can’t remember my classwork being marked when I was in secondary school in two different countries. Students were responsible for the documentation of their classwork in a way that worked for them. You knew that you would be assessed and as such you understood that it was important to accurately record and fully complete set tasks to the best of your ability. You paid good attention to class feedback and amended your work accordingly. This was a given, you didn’t need a teacher to constantly remind you about the importance of keeping a detailed, up-to-date, and well presented record of completed set tasks in your folder or exercise book.

I’ve had to mark piles and piles and piles and piles of classwork for about a decade. Some have been a breath of fresh air; really neat and nice work. You see that the student was attentive and that they clearly completed every work as expected, and sometimes beyond expectation. These students obviously take responsibility for their learning and pride in their work. They are usually students with excellent behaviour and a fantastic work ethic. Indeed, I wouldn’t have known its extent if I hadn’t collected their books to mark.

Then you have those students who just really don’t care, not enough to be bothered to pay needed attention, follow instructions, and put in their best effort. Their work glaringly shows it and it’s so demoralising to even look at. Unlike the previous students where I struggle to suggest potential improvements for their work, I have a very long list of what these students need to do.

Then you have those in-between and your surprises; students who don’t pay full attention but produce very good classwork.

The primary reason for marking classwork is to give feedback on how students can improve. Well, I review majority of tasks I set in class and students are given the opportunity to self or peer assess their work based on whole class feedback on set tasks.

I mostly struggle to give specific feedback to students who produce excellent work because there isn’t anything as such they can improve in relation to our learning objectives. So, I end up writing about revision measures as what they need to do better. But guess what? They know this anyway, because they are points I say in class!

As for the students who are not bothered enough, there is so much improvements they need to make and they are very unlikely to make any, even if I only suggest one action. Why? Because they are not bothered enough, or on rare occasions, they don’t have the ability to do what would be better about their work.

And once again, you have those in-between.

I have tried to chase students up in relation to responding to feedback or even given some class time (that I can’t really afford in my exam groups) to it. I must say that it has for the most part been a waste of my time.

Now, what happens to these books after each academic year? Most of them are left with me, even some of the really good ones. So, what do I do? I have to chuck them out to create space for the next set of books in the new year. I try to tear out unused paper to reuse and then recycle as much of the remaining sheets as I can.

All the time I spent reviewing and marking each book throughout the academic year ….

So, you can perhaps understand my dismay at having to mark piles and piles of exercise books; it seems to be largely a futile effort … definitely time that can be better spent. Especially given the fact that I meet the feedback aim of marking these books during each lesson.


So, what do you think of marking classwork?

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#AtoZChallenge: Considering my Teaching from A – Z in April 2015

E is for Exam Musings             || F is for Friendships at School           

G is for Grades: Important but …

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14 thoughts on “My Marking Rant

  1. It’s officially the second half of A to Z. Time to catch that second wind, rest up on Sunday, then it’s that mad dash toward the finish line!

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Cohost
    N is for Numerology

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    • Wow … how time flies. Thanks so much for dropping by; and so sorry I’m terribly behind. I’m commited to finishing and that means I plan to catch up on everyone I’ve missed before the end of the challenge (hopefully). 🙂

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  2. That does sound futile. I wouldn’t worry about finding things to suggest to the strong students. Just a compliment and “keep up the good work” would be sufficient. As a former college professor, I don’t miss marking papers at all.

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