For decades teachers have been recording weekly results, scores and grades to track student performance. Typically the data is documented within a mark book of some description. Usually the booklet is located on the teachers desk and sometimes it is hidden among piles of paper or under a textbook. Within a nearby pencil case there would be a red pen used to scribe scores, there would also be coloured markers for annotations and liquid paper to rectify mistakes. Also on the teachers table would be a ruler to guide the teacher across each column or row to make comparisons or assist interpretation of quantitative data. The calculator would be somewhere, perhaps in the drawer and removed for when averages, totals and class mean were to be calculated.
While this may be the usual scenario, this traditional marking scheme is truly labor intensive. Moderation is made incredibly complex when teachers maintain different methods of marking. Variation in mark book columns or margins will make comparison of results difficult between teachers and results may be impacted. Furthermore, paper documentation is not easily shared or accessible for colleagues when hardcopies are being used to record assessment results. While information can be photocopied, the data cannot be duplicated in such a manner that it can be manipulated by others. When report cards are being completed, the information has to be transferred onto a digital platform. In result, the endless pieces of data will need to be reworked and then entered into other marking systems. This process may create opportunities for error. Fortunately report cards are peer reviewed and this eliminates errors that may occur when data is transferred. Maintaining a hardcopy mark book will mean that data is handled twice and this doubles the workload of the teacher.
Another alternative is for professional educators to have the hardcopy mark book and an electronic one. While this may seem the best of both worlds, some data will still need to be handled twice and the mixed method will create confusion of where particular marks are recorded. To overcome this dilemma spreadsheets can be relied on as a complete marking scheme and this presents its own set of problems.
Using Excel or a similar marking system is a step in the right direction. The benefit is that information can be copied and pasted between cells and that calculations are automatically generated if formulas and rules are applied. An added benefit of using technology as a means of recording results means information can be easily shared between colleagues and this can improve collaboration and moderation. When using spreadsheets, data can be saved and updated each and every occasion and the files shared among staff. It is important to back up data and this is where things can become a little tricky. The reason being that all saved versions will need to be synchronised to ensure all marking schemes are current. If files and marks have been distributed to colleagues for moderation purposes and documents edited, then the items will need to be resent. If files are deleted or they become corrupt the marking scheme has failed. One of the major disadvantages of housing a private digital mark book is that it is its own entity and not part of a unified system. Ultimately, schools need marking schemes to 'talk to one another' to allow consistency in performance and also the ability to track student progress while informing best teaching practice. Schools are beginning to use a singular marking scheme to improve consistency because it will ensure that data is reliable and trustworthy.
Rather than using pen or paper or an Excel spreadsheet, colleges can use web based marking schemes. Online marking provides a secure, current and uniform approach that is accessible by all team members on PC, phone or tablet. When multiple teachers are using a methodical marking approach data can be analysed to provide credible feedback on student performance. As a student progresses through schooling, patterns in performance can be obtained and accurate assumptions be made. In addition, results can inform practice and proactive steps can be taken to improve academic performance of an individual or cohort. Systemic marking platforms allow a class group to be tracked from year to year to monitor progress. If a school uses a spattering of different marking regimes and processes there will be no consistency and this will impact on child development. With traditional marking methods it is difficult to apply weighting to results across a year level as often teachers rely on mental computation to apply weighting and this is an obvious weakness of this methodology. Obviously the teacher's assessment folder that is hidden on the classroom table under paper or a textbook simply does not provide the collaborative opportunities that an online mark book will.
An immediate observation of any online marking scheme is that moderation will always improve. The dynamics and collaborative abilities of electronic mark books are many. An online mark book will allow teachers to modify various elements in real time and adjust weighting of tasks to guarantee educational justice. When a team of teachers assemble and agree on the assessment to be used teaching will become targeted and meaningful because the goal posts are not shifting.
I have taught for many years and I know that an online marking scheme will take the brain work out of maintaining student records. Improved accuracy will be delivered through adapting systems that automatically deliver results and grades. Ultimately, more time will be made available to deal with other issues. When I completed my Master of Education, I completed a unit on qualitative and quantitative data. Through my studies I become aware of how data can be skewed and how inconstant assessment and evaluation practices can result in spikes that flaw professional practice. To ensure professional teaching standards are reached and continual professional development is achieved a methodical approach to assessment is paramount. Uniformity in practice will strengthen team and allow colleagues to conduct evaluation of their professional practice to reinforce strengthens and outline areas of curriculum content that may need to be revisited or supported with additional resources in the future.