Marking and correction


‘I go to correct French exercises,’ says the Reverend John Gillett (fl.1880) in Stalky and Co. Not mark them: perhaps the subsequent shift of language reveals a shift of attitude and procedure.

Marking—or marks— are mentioned only once in the book, in a tirade by the classicist Mr King: the ‘materialized ignorance of the unscholarly middle classes,’ ‘lust for mere marks,’ etc.

One may assume that the children whose exercises had been corrected were obliged to rewrite them in full: if so, then there was a certain realism about how memory works, shared by the teacher of one of our own Spanish boys, who used that procedure at his school in Spain. The boy wrote better English than a great many of his English peers.

A Director of Studies at one of our rival schools tried to impose a uniform marking system on the staff. His system revealed firstly that he thought the prime purpose of marking was assessment, and secondly that he had imperfect knowledge of how a language—or even English or History—is taught.

Marking tends to be individual to each subject, and if students have to accommodate to different teachers, that may be no bad grounding for their future. And the manner in which marking is done every day in school is not the same as the marking done by public examiners, although students need to be acquainted with the methods of the latter.

The purpose of everyday marking in our subjects is to enable correction as far as language is concerned, and amendment in the case of essay writing. Some colleagues encourage students to rewrite sentences or paragraphs of essays.

Correction of language, it can be argued, needs to be total, and carried out by the students themselves.

What of Assessment for Learning? Clumsy as that phrase sounds, the idea behind it is that assessment—by teacher, by peer, by self—is a tool to be used for the improvement of learning. It includes the desire to get away from numerical ‘marks’. Much of it is common sense, and for much of it there is no time in an overcrowded curriculum. But its principles seem important. A useful introduction is to be found in this link:

Next post: Examinations.

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