My colleagues and I were having an impromptu meeting in the hall the other day (we do that) and after some shared laughs, I reluctantly said, "Well, I better get back to marking..."
And one of my colleagues said something like, "Dave's always 'marking.' You sound so Canadian." [I am not Canadian, by the way...but I had a Canadian roommate once...]
"What do you call it?" I asked.
"I say 'correcting,'" my colleague responded.
And another colleague said, "I say 'grading.' I have grading to do..."
And we laughed again.
But now I'm thinking about this. I know I used to call it "grading" too. And I think--back at the beginning of my teaching career, when I taught math and had a lot of papers coming across my desk every day--I used to call it "correcting" too.
Does the name we use for assessing and evaluating students' work matter?
|Image by psychobabble [CC BY-ND 2.0]|
I think "correcting" emphasizes the fact that students make mistakes, and these are in need of straightening out. And certainly this kind of feedback is necessary!
I think "grading" emphasizes the evaluative nature of the work. Here again, part of assessing well is clearly communicating with students about their achievement.
I think of "marking" as "making marks on their papers." I used to do this with a purple pen--underlining, making + signs and smiley faces next to points I though were right on, and jotting comments in the margins. I literally marked their papers. Now that I generally provide this feedback digitally, it might look different. Probably lots more comments, and less smiley faces. ;-)
In the end, this might just be a matter of semantics, of word choice. But I think that our word choice matters!
I like "marking," and I'm realizing that I haven't come to it by accident.
I used to call it "correcting" because that's what I did: I was correcting students' mistakes on their pre-algebra papers. Later I shifted to "grading" because that's what I was emphasizing when I became primarily a science teacher: generating a grade that tried to synthesize their learning into one symbol. When I was working on my Masters degree, I started exploring alternative assessment methods and began minimizing the importance of letter grades in my middle school science classes in favor of writing lots more feedback. (I gave fewer assignments, but I like to think I gave better feedback on those fewer assignments that was really focused on what students were doing well, and what they were not doing so well, and suggestions for improvement.) Is providing this kind of feedback the same thing as correcting math papers, or grading lab reports?
Fellow educators, what do you call your approach to providing feedback to students on their work? Is it grading? Correcting? Marking? Do you have different term entirely?
Is this a personal preference? Or is there something going on here about a philosophy of education? Is this a school culture issue?
And...does it matter what we call it?