Diary of an NQT: A simple marking solution

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Desperate to reduce her marking workload, our NQT diarist realises she has overlooked a simple solution – marking codes and comment banks

My first half-term was an amalgamation of highs and lows, with what felt like a never-ending to-do list. Despite this, half-term finally arrived and I made sure I made the most of it.

Exhausted is an understatement: I don’t think I have ever felt quite as ready for a break as I did before half-term.

As it has been frequently said, the NQT year is the most challenging. Yes, I have definitely felt the pressure increase. Things have moved up a gear, and responsibility feels ten-fold in comparison to the trainee year.

It is also true that every day brings something new. I think that is what has always attracted me to the profession – I am never bored, and never at a loss for things to do. While this is stimulating, it is important – vital – to take a step back and switch off whenever we can. However, like many, I imagine, it has certainly taken me a bit of time to regulate my organisation and self-management.

I have been thinking about my workload recently. With the end-of-term assessments piling up, I have approximately 150 essays to mark across both key stages 3 and 4. At first, I had resigned myself to kissing my half-term break goodbye and accepting the fact that I’d be catching up on marking for the best part of the time off.

However, I have been doing some research into effective feedback strategies that can help teachers to keep their marking workload in check.

One method I am planning to use is marking codes. This will save me writing the same comments over and over again (something I get bilious just thinking about). In addition, it is a really simple and effective way of getting students to actually consider and engage with the feedback they are given.

Too often, my students skip through my comments and are desperate to know the grade they have achieved. It exasperates me when I think of how much time and energy is put into writing out pages of comments, especially when my feedback ends up being longer than their submitted assessment – which is not good practice!

The premise of the marking codes is so very simple: aligned with our school’s grading system, I make a bank of comments and write a number or numbers on each student’s work.

During the feedback lesson, the feedback codes are displayed on the board and students write their “what went well/even better if” onto their work themselves.

This isn’t particularly ground-breaking nor revolutionary, but in the midst of chaos I’ve been known to overlook such simple resolutions to my major problems with workload.

I am lucky to work in a school that is constantly looking for ways to improve the practice of feedback while alleviating the unnecessary stress that it brings to teachers. This is definitely something I will share with others during our CPD meetings on feedback for learning.

Since this is a similar and more concentrated version of whole-class feedback, which has rightly taken the profession by storm recently, I hope this will come in useful across other subjects.

So, with this in mind, I made plans to enjoy the break. It was nice to be able to regulate my sleeping pattern (if only for a short time) and do “normal” things like reading and catching up with friends over a coffee. And I hope that everybody else had a restful and well-deserved break, just in time for the killer eight-week half-term that is imminent!

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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