Diary of an NQT: Tactics to streamline marking

Written by: NQT diarist | Published:
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With a ‘learning walk’ looming, our NQT diarist is keen to get on top of his marking and is adopting specific strategies to save time, while increasing output

We are racing through this term. I keep saying it, but it’s true! I am back to it after being off for a few days ill last week and the pace definitely hasn’t slowed down at all.

There are now, as I write, only two weeks left of this term, not that anyone is counting, and it really doesn’t feel like we have been back at school for four whole weeks since the winter break. Even more scary is that the next half-term is only five weeks for us as well. This will put us at the end of a term with only summer to go.

It is always interesting to me that when you work at a school you don’t see time in days, weeks or months – instead you see the year split up into chunks or “half-terms”, and the year races past when you look at it like this.

This week we have another round of “learning walks”. This is where a member of the department, usually paired with a member of senior management, comes into your lessons to assess how well students are learning.

In our school, there are a few things that are addressed during the learning walks. These include progression through a lesson, evidence of marking, and teacher feedback and evidence of students responding to teacher feedback.

One of the ways these are generally assessed is by using the students’ books to view progress and teacher-student interactions. Generally, marking books is my weak point and I think that is the case for many new teachers. It takes a lot of motivation to sit down and mark a pile of books and it can be disheartening when you do get round to doing them.

However, I knew the learning walks were coming up, so ever since being back after the break I have been making it my aim to mark at least 10 books a day. This was the same marking approach that I used earlier in the year to keep on top of things. I find this method is much more efficient. I don’t get halfway through a pile of books and lose interest and start to look for other things to do, it is just 10 books.

I think that if I was to sit down and mark 30 books at once then by the time I got to the 30th book I wouldn’t actually be marking or making useful suggestions of how students can improve – I would instead just be ticking pages without paying the work proper attention.

I usually make sure I write a comment at the end of marking, including a question for the student to answer – perhaps something on our most recent work or something from earlier in the module.

When I first started, this used to take a really long time, not least because I used to write out the questions. However, now I have streamlined this process and it takes seconds to mark a book as opposed to minutes.

How have I done this? Well, I use a number system at the end of a piece of work. In the student book I will write something along the lines of “To improve on my targets I need to...” (even better if you can get a stamp that says this) and then I will put two or three numbers.

These numbers correlate to questions on a slide that is projected during the response time. The students then copy down the questions that they need to answer to improve into their books and they then answer them at the start or end of a lesson.

This saves me so much time when marking and I believe the students still benefit from the feedback just as much even though I haven’t copied the questions into their books for them.

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of science from a school in the Midlands.


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