As you return to school next week, a good thought to have in the back of your mind as you plan your subject experiences over these final weeks is the idea of being ‘NQT ready’. I don’t mean this in a scary way – you are always going to be nervous about September, and worry if you are ready! What I mean is, you have made all this progress since September and you are now getting ready for the next stage of your adventure as a teacher! How can you make best use of the different pieces of time you have left on the course to get all your questions answered, see as much good practice as possible and try out ideas in your own teaching to be as ready as possible? Whilst you will be undertaking your inquiry project at a whole school level, you will have plenty of time to continue to focus on your own personal priorities for professional development. You really do have a unique opportunity coming up where you will have space to think and also to observe teachers and teaching as someone who now has a better idea of what they are watching and what they want to know! As many of you have been presenting this week on your personal theory of teaching and learning, it also seems sensible to take a bit of time to think how this focus on theory might help you get the most out of the upcoming weeks.
One particular area I would recommend you focusing on is that of assessing pupils’ work and marking. You will have been doing this over the duration of your placement but it would be a good area to explore further in this period of professional development. Through our work with NQTs, we know that coping with the demands of marking and assessment is a huge part of their first year of teaching. Anything you can do to prepare yourself for this in advance will be worthwhile.
More generally, we know that there is a concern nationally about the impact of marking and assessment on teacher workload – in March last year a review was released with some really sensible guidance and recommendations that are worth looking at – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/511256/Eliminating-unnecessary-workload-around-marking.pdf
The document emphasises the need for marking to be meaningful, manageable and motivating:
‘Marking should serve a single purpose – to advance pupil progress and outcomes. Teachers should be clear about what they are trying to achieve and the best way of achieving it. Crucially, the most important person in deciding what is appropriate is the teacher. Oral feedback, working with pupils in class, reading their work – all help teachers understand what pupils can do and understand. Every teacher will know whether they are getting useful information from their marking and whether pupils are progressing.’
It would seem to me a really good thing to think about these three ‘m’s before you finish your placement. Gathering as much information, and ideas of best practice, as you can will stand you in great stead for September!
What does ‘meaningful’ look like? Have a look at different examples of marking and try and work out what makes it meaningful.
Have you thought before about what you are ‘trying to achieve’ when you mark, or have you just marked work because you have to, blindly following the policy of your placement school? How do you know if your marking has achieved what you wanted it to?
Ask different teachers their answers to these questions and try to identify good strategies and ideas for keeping the focus on marking being purposeful.
This is absolutely crucial! In September you will be teaching more classes than you do now, you will have less free time in the day and more lessons to plan. How do you fit the marking in?
Talk to as many different teachers (from outside your subject, as well as within the department) as you can to find out what they do and how they make it work:
- Do they manage to mark during the school day? How?
- Do they have some ‘tricks’ that speed things up?
- How do they keep track of all their classes and ensure they don’t fall behind with marking?
The more ideas you get the better!
Try out some of the ideas you like the sound of. Which seem to work for you?
Set yourself a time limit to mark a class set of work and practise sticking to it.
Have you thought about marking being ‘motivating’ before??
Make a note of how you think you have/can make marking motivating. Ask teachers what they think makes marking motivating.
Now, and most importantly, ask pupils!
Ask different pupils from different ages and abilities what they think of marking. When is it useful to them? When does it motivate them? What are the features of an approach to marking that they like?
Remember if it is not working for the pupils then it won’t be doing the job it is supposed to do!