Activity 7

Problems in implementing 'comment only' marking

Being able to produce a helpful written comment on pupils' work in a short space of time is a highly complex skill and can take a considerable amount of time and concentration. Marking a whole class set of books with thoughtful diagnostic comment which encourages each pupil to take constructive follow-up action can be easier said than done.

‘Comment only' marking can also be problematic in settings where ‘comment and grade' or ‘grade only' is the established whole school practice. Some educators believe that grades need to be written on pupils' work because they need to know "where they are".

The other problem which you might face in implementing comment-only marking in your own classroom lies in the preconceptions of the pupils themselves. If there is little culture of active learning in a school, pupils themselves can often be resistant to the effort required for constructive engagement with formative assessment practices.

Look at recent examples of your own marking. How well do they promote pupil learning? (Comments made by pupils about their teachers' feedback in the following file might help you).

REFLECT: How far are the criticisms of teacher feedback in this file applicable to your own marking?

EXPLORE: Experiment with ‘comment only' marking in your own classroom.

WRITE: After marking a set of books with ‘comments only' for a specific period of time (e.g. a fortnight), write a brief evaluation of the impact of this approach on your pupils? What problems might there be with this approach?

(Allow 20 minutes)