The Excel Academy

In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.

By Steph Dudley, Siobhan Copeland and Rhiannon Bedford


It is Sunday once again. Saturday feels like a lifetime ago. You decide to sit down at the table, avoiding any distractions which might catch your eye such as, Holly Willoughby’s dress on Dancing on Ice or what Roy Cropper is up to in Coronation Street. You mentally recall what it is you need to mark and why, indeed, you are even marking it at all.


The premise of Great Teaching Made Easy by Mike Gershan is centred around transferring expertise from the teachers’ mind to the learners’ mind so that the learner can understand it, process it and make use of it. He outlines that the whole purpose of marking is to fundamentally correct errors and misconceptions and to create a dialogue with students to help improve their work.


Thus, what am I marking and will it have an impact?


After reading his book, it becomes apparent that marking needs to be purposeful. Although this statement may be pointing out the obvious, this is something we, as educators, forget in the midst of mock examinations and spiral assessments.


Mr Gershan raises the following questions for giving feedback.


  • Is there a clear routine of giving feedback e.g. using a crib sheet?
  • Have we Identified the students that struggle to interpret feedback and allow time to see these students 1-1?
  • Have we considered the benefit of verbal feedback alongside written feedback?
  • Have we considered the use of language when giving feedback?
  • Are pupils familiar with the codes in their book?


Our main issue when it comes to marking is there never seems to be enough time! Therefore, here are some strategies that can be used to save time for ourselves:


  • Do not mark everything!
  • No tick and flick!
  • Collect books in open on the correct page
  • Break up feedback so students focus on one section at a time. An example would be the Yellow Box.
  • Select a section of the work and draw a yellow box around it. Students will look at questions on how to improve this and produce a re-draft of this section of work.


It is vital that the question we ask ourselves during the planning stage is ‘what do we want to mark?’ If we plan our tasks with this question in mind, then we are marking relevant, purposeful pieces of work that hopefully challenges and has a positive influence on the students’ learning.


It is important, thus, to ensure that if, as educators, we are planning good lessons, that are challenging then students will learn. After all, it is us as facilitators that are the key.


Hence, next time you sit down to mark those sets of books, remember which part of this is the most useful to the students? Giving essay feedback over marking notes that students made a week ago is surely more beneficial?


As teachers we must review and reflect, change and take risks as Wilcox said:


 “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”


Time is short. Be effective. Be purposeful. Get smart.

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