Secret Teacher: marking exam papers exposes the flaws in teaching

Jun 13, 2015 by


It’s saddening to see so many answers left blank and illegible handwriting – what’s going wrong? I cannot help but think teachers are partly to blame

A detailed but incorrect answer appears beside every question on an exam sheet. The answers are peppered with technical language but their ideas make little sense. This is one of the most frustrating errors I see as an exam marker.

I took the position up a few years ago after some persuasion from a colleague and the lure of some extra holiday money. I was told that it would be excellent training and help me to become a more effective classroom teacher as I would understand the demands of the exam boards more closely.

Yes it is true that I understand the application of mark schemes better than before, and it definitely looks good on my CV. But I don’t think I can do it much longer.

Each year, I clear my diary for June and plan my time carefully to ensure that I can mark to a strict timetable, giving the papers my highest level of focus. And every year I become more and more depressed by the standard of the responses and the restrictive nature of the mark schemes.

The most saddening answers are simply left blank, or there could be a crossed out sentence. This may be understandable at GCSE for a short answer, but I have seen full essay questions left blank in A-level exams. I cannot help but picture the student sat in the exam hall, pen in hand and nothing to write. I wonder how they feel; it makes me sad and angry that maybe they’ve not had all the help they deserve from their teacher.

On another occasion a GCSE student covered a whole page in calculations trying to work out a simple percentage change question. They drew a box and arrows pointing to their eventual (wrong) answer, but they must have spent at least 20 minutes on a question that should take no more than two.

Some students miss out on recognition because they lack the simple skill of clear handwriting; we cannot award the marks if we can’t read the answer. If it is illegible, there is no choice but to only credit the parts I can read.

Source: Secret Teacher: marking exam papers exposes the flaws in teaching | Teacher Network | The Guardian

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