We didn't just save teachers time, we also found that feedback for pupils improved.
In 2016, a Department for Education (DfE) working group found that the obsessive nature, depth and frequency of marking was having a negative effect on teachers’ wellbeing and their ability to plan, prepare and deliver outstanding lessons. Marking was monopolising our working hours outside of the classroom to the detriment of our health and, ironically, our pupils’ progress.
The working group’s report, Eliminating Unnecessary Workload Around Marking, concluded that our profession needs to reconsider our approaches to marking and feedback. It said:
‘Marking has evolved into an unhelpful burden for teachers, when the time it takes is not repaid in positive impact on pupils’ progress… Too often, it is the marking itself which is being monitored and commented on by leaders rather than pupil outcomes and progress as a result of quality feedback.’ (p. 6)
This rang very true for me. I have often written extensive feedback for pupils knowing that they were unlikely to read it, act upon it or have time to reflect on it. Moreover, my mind was often focused on the member of SLT who would be scrutinising my book, rather than the needs of my pupils. Instead of planning how to use the assessed work to move the pupils forward in their learning, I was committed to flooding their books with red or green pen on the premise that the more I wrote, the more thorough my marking would seem to be.
It’s also important, then, that the DfE report noted the need to refocus our energies on using assessment to inform our teaching and support our pupils’ learning.