Why double marking doesn’t add up

The practice of some secondary schools implementing HSC-style marking processes, including pilot marking and double marking, seems to be spreading to Stages 4 and 5. We invite you to tell us what’s happening in your school.

As the union urges schools and systems to look for ways to reduce unnecessary teacher workloads, it is time to put double marking that is not required under the spotlight.

There are no NESA compliance requirements about marking processes below Stage 6, so any requests for HSC-style marking are coming from systems, schools or individuals.

“The IEU will always support efforts to maintain the highest standards in education,” said IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Carol Matthews.

“But where work intensification practices such as double marking are being required, we would want to know, where is the teacher’s professional voice in this conversation, and what tasks have been removed to enable them to undertake this additional work?”

Formative over formal

“There is no need for such processes in a standards-referenced system,” said Professor Jim Tognolini, Director of the Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment (CEMA), at the University of Sydney.

“Teachers build an image of a student based on data or evidence from a range of formative assessments, including observation, questioning, and completion of course work,” Professor Tognolini said.

“More formal, or summative, assessments are important, but they should be used sparingly and should really confirm what the teacher already knows through their day-to-day teaching.”

Professor Tognolini’s advice is to focus on formative and summative assessments that are closely aligned to syllabus outcomes, then track student performance using the teacher’s image of the student against the common grade scale.

Schools are legally obliged, on request, to provide information to parents regarding a student’s achievement in relation to their cohort. However, they are only required to advise the number of students in each of the achievement level groups. There is no requirement for schools to assign students with an overall mark or a rank within the cohort, except at the Stage 6 HSC level.

Professor Tognolini says there is little need for common assessment tasks across different classes if teachers are confidently and consistently assessing against NESA’s common grade scale, other than in Stage 6.

“Teachers can share evidence collected from different formative assessments which reflect borderline performance against NESA’s common grade scale to moderate performances between classes,” Professor Tognolini said.

Support before whole-school policy

Assistant Principal of Teaching and Learning at Christian Brothers High School Lewisham, Natalie Devenish, said time should be allocated at a departmental level “for teachers to become familiar with applying the common grade scale to course work and assessment tasks”.

Graduate teachers should be given additional support and professional learning opportunities, Devenish said. “Where a proficient teacher struggles to apply the common grade scale, an individual conversation and support will always be more effective than implementing a whole-school policy which captures everyone,” she said.

Next step

What’s happening in your school? Tell the union what’s going on. Contact your organiser or email ieu@ieu.asn.au

Reference: Tognolini, J., & Shakra, R. (2021). Give teachers a stronger voice in assessment, Independent Education magazine (IE) 51(1), 2021, pp 16-18.

Patrick Devery
Professional Engagement Coordinator