Marking Matters

feedback2Like most teachers in the autumn term, I have set myself a few targets, some of them to do with marking. I’m going to make sure that I mark student work regularly, make it useful and get students to do something with it.  In search of a bit of inspiration, I read two great blogs on this subject over the weekend.  The first was by the marvellous David Didau (@LearningSpy) entitled ‘Marking is an act of love’.  In it, David talks about the strategy of ‘DIRT’ – Directed Improvement & Reflection Time.  This is where students are given the time during a lesson to read the marking comments of their teacher and then respond to them. Such an important, but often neglected, part of the marking process.

DIRTThe second blog was by Mary Myatt (@MaryMyatt).  In an article entitled ‘Should I be marking every piece of work?‘, Mary draws on her considerable experience as an inspector and advisor to give some great advice about marking.  An extract follows:

“When it comes to giving feedback, reasons should always be given for the comment. ‘Nice work’ isn’t good enough. Save your ink. ‘A high quality piece of work because…’ is much more productive. This is what some schools are referring to as www (what went well). Areas for improvement are often described as ebi (even better if). To support learning, these are much more effective if they are expressed as questions: ‘Could you give an example?’ ‘What else does this make you think of?’ ‘How does this compare with..?’ The teacher should not be providing the child with the answer, but expecting them to think and to refine their work as a result.”

So, these two articles made me reflect on a flow diagram that we have used at DHS to describe ‘effective feedback through marking’.  As a result, it has now been updated – see below:

marking process

Download a copy here.

The key points from it are:

  • Select the work that you are going to mark in detail carefully – make sure it is something that students have had to think about and produce themselves e.g. a paragraph of writing that describes and explains something.  As a science teacher, I often get students to write a PPP (Perfect Paragraph Please) towards the end of the topic for this purpose:


  • Be specific about what is good about the work.
  • Phrase improvement points as questions.
  • Give students DIRT time – to respond to your improvement questions.
  • Check next time that they have responded.

I’ve been doing DIRT with my Y10 and Y11 and they engage with it really well.  One boy said today ‘It makes sense that we do this sir, otherwise all that red pen is a waste of time’.  Indeed it does!

  • Students get the chance to respond to very specific feedback about their work – in order to further develop their understanding.
  • Students also feel their work is valued.
  • I feel satisfied that my marking is actually serving a purpose.
  • And in the words of David Didau ‘Marking is planning’.

book pile

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5 Responses to Marking Matters

  1. I have been trying to do similar things with my marking this year. I have found, especially with my Year 9s, that they find it alien, which shows to me that it isn’t done enough. However, they are starting to get it and I feel much more focused as a teacher because of it. I found your piece really interesting.

  2. Pingback: Stretch and Learn | Marking. Encouraging and evidencing dialog.

  3. Pingback: Verbal Feedback Given…. | Class Teaching

  4. Pingback: Strategic marking for the DIRTy-minded teacher | Reflecting English

  5. Pingback: Marking. Less is more? | Class Teaching

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