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Assessment in secondary mathematics
Assessment in secondary mathematics

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2.1 Marking students’ work

Described image
Figure 3 What should you be marking?

If making progress in mathematics is about getting lots of questions correct, remembering procedures and being able to reproduce them, then marking and giving so many out of 10 or 20 may make some sense. If, on the other hand, you see mathematics as effectively learned only by experimenting, questioning, reflecting, discovering, inventing and discussing, then assessing by giving a grade will not show you that the students are progressing. If you want students to become more independent and to use their own initiative, looking less often to their teacher for direction, then you will want to use other ways to assess that allow students to become more self-reliant and active in their learning.

Activity 3 Deciding what, how and when to assess

Timing: Allow about 2 hours

Part 1

Think about the last work that you marked from a class that you have taught. How did you mark it? Why did you mark it? When did you mark it? Note down your answers.

Part 2

Now consider the following:

  • How did you mark it? Did you give a grade or a comment, or both? If you gave a grade, even alongside a comment, then the students will view this as a summative assessment and will not learn from it. They will see the grade or level as indicating that they are ‘OK’ at this topic, or that they are ‘no good’. They will not see any purpose in putting effort into ‘improving’, as they have already been judged.
  • Why did you mark it? Did you mark it because the work would allow you to gain a good understanding of each students’ current understanding and allow you to plan further learning experiences? Or was it because you are required to mark certain pieces of work?
  • When did you mark it? Is there both time and opportunity after the students have read your marking for them to modify the way they are learning in the light of the marking?

How, why and when you mark is important in making sure that the students use your feedback to help them improve. You should mark work that is worth marking, at a time when the students can use the feedback you give to make a difference – otherwise your effort may be wasted.

Part 3

Now think about the next topic you are going to teach. Consider each piece of work that you might ask the students to do and look at the following points.

  • Decide which pieces might be best marked together in class so that the feedback is speedy.
  • Choose one or two pieces that would be worth your while to mark, as they have the potential to explore the students’ understanding and therefore will inform you and the students of where to go next, to help the students make progress in their learning.
  • Which pieces would be best for students to peer-mark, so that they gain ideas about how to make progress themselves?