A Guide to Efficient Marking

Author: Ben Greenwood

Posted: 17 Sep 2019

Estimated time to read: 4 mins

Almost ¾ of teachers report spending too much time on marking and feedback in their workweek. It is cited as one of the biggest strains on teacher workload along with data management and curriculum planning.

Pressure is often put on teachers when it comes to marking policy, but this isn’t always helpful. In this guide to efficient marking, we’ll explore the benefits of marking smarter and how it can reduce workload and create more time for teachers.

Reducing marking workload shouldn’t detract value from teacher feedback

In fact, it should do the opposite. The goal of introducing efficient marking techniques is not just to save time, it should also provide more value than traditional marking techniques do. This improves work-life balance for teachers and furthers academic progression for students, all with just a couple of changes to how teachers carry out marking and feedback.

To reduce workload without reducing quality, means we need to mark smarter. We need to find new techniques that afford teachers more time and give students feedback they can actually put into practice to improve their school performance.

How to mark smarter

Marking smarter involves relying less on traditional techniques and becoming open to methods that might seem counterintuitive at first. This can be difficult for teachers who have been teaching for a number of years, and it can be doubly difficult to convince school leaders to change their policy to these methods.

However, with no evidence to suggest it is always effective, ‘deep marking’ (the usual method of marking and grading an entire piece of work in depth) is most likely not the best course of action for regular homework feedback. Whilst it’s important to acknowledge the usefulness of deep marking, especially during assessment periods, it isn’t always the best form of feedback for students. Instead using smart marking techniques that take a different approach to assessing students’ work can result in greater academic progress and less work to get them there.


The three main questions to ask when giving feedback are:

  • What are the students’ goals?
  • Where are they right now?
  • What needs to happen for them to reach these goals?

These three questions are what almost all efficient marking techniques are built on. You can even create your own marking scheme by adhering to these questions and creating a framework that allows them all to be answered as best as possible. These smart marking techniques provide a fresh look at feedback and how we can harness it differently to maximise its benefits on students, whilst keeping the time teachers need to spend on it to a minimum.

Sound too good to be true? Here’s how you can put smarter marking into practice to reduce workload:

Smart marking techniques


Getting students to mark their own work isn’t a lazy teacher trick. Self-marking actually benefits students more than work marked by teachers, because it repositions the responsibility for academic progression as that of the student’s, instead of the teacher. It also encourages helpful discussion about the task and saves teachers the time it would have taken to individually mark each submission.

Class Marking Sheet

Have a whole class marking sheet with different sections for praise, missing work, mistakes, commendations and a pick of the best pieces of work. Add the names of pupils, with a short comment explaining why they are in that section. This again reduces the toll on teachers’ workload and increases student engagement in class. It does mean going through more of students work, but there is no deep marking required and the class will benefit from the ability to speak with the teacher about what they need to improve on and what they did well.

Elect a Student Marker

Each week elect a different student to go round the class and assign a grade to each student’s work (this works best with smaller classes and shorter assignments). The marking student will benefit from looking at the class’ work with a critical eye and the teacher won’t have to mark the work fully. It’s best for the teacher to go over the marked work too, just to ensure the marker was being fair.

The Traffic Light System

Instead of annotating homework line by line or question by question, introducing a traffic light system that focuses on the positives (green), the ‘almost there’ (amber) areas and room for improvement (red). This allows the teacher to quickly identify the areas for improvement and praise and gives pupils a more well rounded view of how they performed on the task.

mark smarter with our guide to efficient marking

Using technology to reduce marking

As well as smart marking techniques, teachers also have a wealth of edtech software and creative classroom technology to help them educate pupils without several hours of planning beforehand. This includes whole-class trivia apps, using hashtags on twitter and even a whole school approach, using a learning platform to assist every step of teaching.

School software now allows teachers to set online quizzes that automatically show students’ scores and eliminate excuses for late homework (which breeds late marking) with online submissions. When implemented correctly, software can streamline the marking process for teachers whilst engaging students in work that they can complete on their laptop or phone and providing actionable feedback.

Download Sequencing Lesson Plan