£2m announced for research into marking strategies

Schools and academy trusts have been encouraged to apply for funding to run trials into effective marking strategies, as the result of a major marking review published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

The report by University of Oxford academics concluded that despite teachers spending on average nine hours a week marking, there is little evidence to show which strategies are effective.

The researchers did, however, identify a number of marking strategies they say could improve the time-effectiveness balance for teachers, including better marking of fewer books, giving pupils time to review feedback, and differentiating between errors of understanding and careless mistakes.

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics issued similar guidance recently, when it recommended making a distinction between errors of misunderstanding, and simple “slips”.

The latest EEF review was commissioned to find evidence to inform teachers’ decision-making about marking, and comes after the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group noted that written marking had become unnecessarily burdensome for teachers.

The group’s 2016 report recommended that all marking should be driven by professional judgement and be “meaningful, manageable and motivating”.

The EEF has emphasised the “urgent need” for further robust studies and has ear-marked £2 million that will be immediately available to fund new trials “which will lead to practical and useful knowledge for teachers in such a critical area of teaching practice”.

A spokesperson for the EEF said that while charities and university departments were expected to make applications, they were also keen to encourage more “school-led” project applications from academy trusts and individual schools.

The funding round will be posted shortly on the EEF website and in the meantime, institutions considering applying are advised to familiarise themselves with EEF guidelines on how to submit high-quality applications.

5 conclusions from the marking review

1. Not all mistakes are equal. Misunderstandings should be addressed by providing hints or questions that lead pupils to underlying principles; careless errors by simply marking the mistake as incorrect, without giving the right answer.
2. Grading can reduce the impact of marking. Particularly if pupils become preoccupied with grades at the expense of the teachers’ comments.
3. Less – or rather, fewer – is more. Instead of simply acknowledging that work has been seen, it may be better to mark fewer books but provide specific information about how to improve.
4. Pupils need time to review. Pupils are unlikely to benefit from marking unless some time is set aside for them to consider and respond to feedback.
5. Targets can work. Using targets to make marking as specific as possible is likely to increase pupil progress, but teachers should consider the time-benefit balance of their marking strategy.

Read the full EEF report, A Marked Improvement.

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