We need teachers to mark examination papers and teachers can gain invaluable experience and insight from doing so, but the additional workload on an already over stretched profession can put teachers off. This is an important issue as Ofqual says: ‘The availability of a sufficient number of willing teachers is crucial to ensuring GCSEs, AS and A Levels are marked on time and with the level of expertise required’.
For teachers, marking provides the opportunity to work with experienced Senior Examiners and to gain an understanding of what they look for in candidate responses: examiners will see hundreds of responses from different students at different schools which may, in turn, inform their approach to teaching the subject in the future. We aimed to address the barriers to teachers taking part in marking and support them to become examiners by running an in-house marking pilot with a Multi Academy Trust.
The idea was for teachers to mark candidate responses during their normal working hours to enable them to benefit from being an examiner while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.The marking was for GCSE History and ran over 4 days with the training delivered on day one and live exam marking taking place over the following days. This was the first time we had brought teachers together across a Trust in one place to mark scripts. There was a representative from every school in the Trust, almost all of whom are with Pearson as an awarding body. The in-house marking related to one examination paper and was limited to ensure an appropriate focus and enable examiners to complete a suitable quantity of items for quality assurance whilst realising professional development opportunities.
Cutting workload and promoting confidence
The feedback from the teachers taking part was overwhelmingly positive. Firstly, marking during the working day rather than after school and at home made a big difference to workload – this being the main issue that otherwise puts teachers off from becoming potential future examiners – but it also gave them experience and confidence. They viewed this as CPD and many of them commented that this experience was the best CPD they had received to date. About 75% of the teachers in the room were first-time examiners and they said that having this face to face in the centre boosted their confidence to be an examiner and mark for such a high stakes exam. This session alleviated fears of becoming an examiner and they would all want to be involved in a marking project like this again. All of them said the experience would improve their classroom practice as it had increased their understanding of the spec and mark scheme and helped them ‘think like an examiner’ which would help them teach more effectively. Finally, the teachers found it invaluable to build better relationships with other History teachers across the Trust and it was helpful for schools with Pearson Edexcel to build connections for greater support and ideas across the Trust.
Promoting quality and new talent
It was a win-win situation with the pilot helping to recruit new examiners. The Senior Examiners said that this was a great way to develop teacher talent and they would hire any of them on the spot! The examiners marking scripts were able to access real-time feedback and support as they were marking questions. This way of building confidence in new examiners is important as it promotes quality of marking. This was reflected in the accuracy scores of the examiners which were consistent with our current high standards.
After such a positive response, we’re looking to extend the pilot and work with more trusts. If you’d like to be involved, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Examiners taking part in the in-house marking pilot were required to submit an application and meet the minimum requirements for marking as per our usual processes. You can find out more about becoming an examiner on our qualifications website.
By Isla Billet, Manager - Assessments at Pearson Uk.
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