Teachers flock to ‘voodoo’ solution to excessive marking workload

An online ‘comparative judgement’ marking system could revolutionise how teachers assess pupils’ work

A growing number of schools are embracing a “voodoo” solution to marking in an attempt to cut teachers’ excessive workload.

Traditional marking could become a thing of the past, education experts say, if schools and exam boards embrace comparative judgement – a system where an examiner makes a series of judgements on pairs of pieces of work.

Dr Chris Wheadon, founder of organisation No More Marking – which promotes comparative judgements in education – believes that the current marking systems are unhelpful and burdensome. “If you get rid of mark schemes completely, then it does work. The accuracy of marking is appalling,” the assessment expert told TES.

And now the academic has the support of a number of leading education experts – including Daisy Christodoulou, head of assessment at the Ark academy chain, who believes that the approach has “real potential” in schools.

“It feels a bit like voodoo if you are so used to the traditional moderation method. But when it comes out right, it feels very positive and it saves so much time,” she told TES.

The approach involves teachers making simple comparative judgements between pairs of assignments. These are then aggregated by computer software to produce a rank order.

Dr Wheadon, who originally set up the service to compare different exam boards’ GCSE maths papers for Ofqual, told TES that he was “surprised” by the speed with which teachers have taken to it and seen it as a “solution” to burdensome marking.

He said: “I wasn’t really aware of the heights of marking madness, particularly at primary. The marking they do is far too extensive.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 8 April edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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