Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mr. D's Rules for Marking

I've watched this video about 20 times in the past year or two. It's always going to be funny to me because when you get the message behind the exaggeration it's something we've already seen.


I thought that a list of rules based on Mr. D's approach would be a fun way to share my perspective on marking papers and assessment design.



1. Bill: "There goes your weekend, eh, markin'?" Mr. D: "Not really."

Trim the fat. Tests and quizzes that attempt to assess too much can wear out both teachers and students. Try to focus on one standard at a time. Try scaffolding the writing expectations throughout the year by looking closely at sentences for a couple months before looking at paragraph structure. Also, think about grouping standards into one learning target based on skills or background knowledge.

2. "These are essay questions. If I were to read these, it would take forever. So, I don't."

If students are not writing the stuff you're looking for, skip it. It sends two messages. (1) Don't waste time filling the page to gain a shot of dopamine from the appearance of completion. (2) We only have time for relevant work, and here it is. Mark the successes and have students rewrite the parts that didn't get marks so that all of their writing meets the level of the expectation. Try a feedback model like SE2R by Mark Barnes.

3. "Sometimes their answers are better."

Leave students room to demonstrate what they know and can do. Write open questions that are more thematic and conceptual, allowing students to draw from a body of information with which they can more confidently show mastery.

4. "That way, I don't have to give her a 100."

Grades create enough anxiety. Inaccurate grades are just destructive. Using scoring scales and rubrics can help ensure "A" students are really the top of the class. This is not to say that you should design an assessment or scale that makes a perfect score unattainable. My scoring scales usually require students to exceed the expectation in order to receive more than a 90. I ask myself if the student went beyond the call of the task and cheer for them to produce great work. It happens, a lot.

5. "You just put marks on it."

If you put marks on the paper and write the score at the top, that's all the students will ever care about. When teachers do this, research has suggested that there is a zero percent achievement gain associated with writing scores on papers. In fact, according to this same research, the only achievement gain is 30 percent when comments are provided without a score. When both comments and the score are present, the achievement gain goes back to zero. So choose either score or comments. You'll save time with this rule and a couple of the others.

Thanks for reading. Please comment below on successes, troubles, agreements, disagreements, etc.