Learning of marking and feedback; these are for

 Learning and teaching that leads to
better outcomes for students is driven by the raising of standards and the
raising of the expectations of both teachers and students. Teachers must manage
“complicated and demanding situations, channelling the personal, emotional and
social pressures of a group of 30 or more youngsters in order to help them
learn” (Black and Wiliam 1998), therefore with vigorous changes to raise
standards, approaches can become based on assumption and a need to provide
evidence rather than research or proven methods of efficacy. Looking to Ofsted
and government policy, it is noted that “Ofsted recognises that marking and
feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment.
However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume
of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its
assessment policy” (Ofsted, 2016). In a climate that is no doubt competitive
and saturated with data collection, analysis, and evidence of marking and
feedback, practitioners may continue with relentless marking and feedback
without seeking to define or truly utilise either, which is often detrimental
to teacher well-being and student progress. Didau considers that “marking and feedback are two quite separate things” but that
“in the minds of educators, marking and feedback have become synonymous” (2013).
Despite the plethora of studies on marking and feedback, Hattie and Timperley’s
relatively recent study (2007) points out that “few recent studies have
systematically investigated the meaning of feedback in classrooms” and Shute’s
2008 study notes that “specific mechanisms relating feedback to learning are
still mostly murky”. In order to continue to raise standards in a positive and
constructive way, practitioners must move away from viewing marking as feedback for the teacher in order to
know how the student is progressing, which is merely a “transmissive process” (Nicol
and Macfarlane-Dick, 2006) and not helpful for the student. Research has shown
that students enjoy receiving marks and positive comments, but they do not find
them valuable (Butler, 1988). With this data collection driven process, we see
“the giving of marks and the grading function are overemphasized, while the
giving of useful advice and the learning function are underemphasized” (Black
and Wiliam, 1998). The drive towards evidencing marking and feedback has meant
that teachers are overworked and can confidently say how much their lives have been affected by the increased
volume of marking, but as Didau points out “what impact does it have on
students’ outcomes? The answer is, we just don’t know” (2013). Therefore, it becomes more important to define
marking and feedback as separate concepts, and to consider how they work
together to formulate a successful “proactive, rather than reactive role in
generating and using feedback” (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2006). The act of marking
in many schools’ policies involves literally making a ‘mark’ on a student’s
piece of work where an error has been made. This is usually followed with a
grade or percentage which reflects how well a student has performed. This
alone, without feedback, has little or no effect on progress. Hattie and
Timperly state that “Praise for task performance appears to be ineffective” (2007).
When considering the effects of marking on
teachers, Tomsett describes the process as “Hard work. It consumes teachers’
time like a basking shark consumes plankton” and goes onto explain that in his
school, “Our approach to assessment, where we have refocused upon formative
assessment, has gone hand in hand with our new feedback policy” (2016). Here,
Tomsett acknowledges the importance of marking and feedback working together to
promote positive outcomes. In the current climate, many schools are either pushing too
many assessments that result in a lot of data and little feedback, or feedback
that is basic and merely commentary. Both, arguably, in the pursuit of evidence
and accountability. This in turn, causes excessive teacher workloads for little
student progress, as Didau comments, “In England the majority of teachers see
their marking burden as both onerous and unhelpful and it’s not unusual
for teachers to be expected to spend 3 hours plus every night wading through a
pile of marking” (2016). In response to this, government policy has recently
stated that:

Effective marking is
an essential part of the education process. At its heart, it is an interaction
between teacher and pupil: a way of acknowledging pupils’ work, checking the
outcomes and making decisions about what teachers and pupils need to do next,
with the primary aim of driving pupil progress. This can often be achieved
without extensive written dialogue or comments (Copping, 2016).

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