Subject English Marking Methods: Investigation and Study

The English Teachers Association of Western Australia have embarked on a rigorous, academic study of marking practices in subject English in Western Australia. This study will explore various marking methods, including criterion-referenced, analytical and holistic marking, through thorough academic review of global scholarship, analysis of data patterns across the state, and a wide-scale marking trial involving classroom English teachers.

To find out more about this project read below.
Why are we running this project?
How is the study being conducted?
How can you be involved in this study?
When can we expect some results of the study?

Why are we running this project?

The ‘m’ word! Marking is not only something that takes up a lot time of time for English teachers, it is also something that can cause stress as teachers work hard to maintain consistent standards and have confidence in judgements. Sometimes marking even leads to conflict in teaching teams, with students and parents. The reason it causes these responses from teachers is that everyone is seeking to provide the most fair and valid assessment of student effort and understanding, but we are not always sure of the best method to use to make these judgements.

Over the last decade this has come into sharper focus for teachers in WA as the ATAR Literature examination has been marked using a ‘criteron referenced marking key’ and suggestions of similar methods for English have been canvassed. ETAWA has been reluctant to support specific marking methods without a clear proposal, marking trial and thorough academic research into methods of judgement. We are aware that individual departments have been working to find helpful methods, often through stated criteria or rubrics, that assist in marking judgements while also providing feedback to students, but most find their methods continue to have limitations. So ETAWA has invested in a project that is an extensive investigation into exactly that – and we’d like to invite members to be involved.

How is the study being conducted?

The initial stages of the investigation are already well under way through the researchers of The Big Picture Project and our partners at UWA. This involves a comprehensive literature review that will incorporate research around marking methods, standards and assessment, with a particular focus on subject English. This literature review will consider any research completed in WA, but will also consider national and international research around ‘criterion-referenced or criterion-based’, ‘holistic’ and ‘analytical’, and many other methods of marking, measurement and teacher judgements. In addition the investigators will place these methods against the current Examination Design Briefs and assessment structures teachers are required to follow, as well as the Grade Descriptors and other directions on making judgements that are mandated in WA.

As our concern is related to subject English, and not other subjects, we will look to national and global comparisons of marking and measurement methods for secondary English related courses. This comparison will contextualise the marking methods used interstate and interternationally in comparable English education settings, and it will also take into account tertiary comparisons. In addition, the project hopes to explore the student performance data and marking reconcilation figures across all areas of secondary English. We are not limiting the scope of the project to ATAR English or examination marking, but instead look to provide guidence and practical applications for teachers of all levels of English using various assessment forms.

Finally the project will conduct a large-scale marking trial, led by a marking study coordinator (advertised recently), using classroom teachers to test various marking methods. The data from this trial will be used to make recommendations to WA teachers and the wider education community about accurate and reliable methods of marking, and will also inform a further trial looking at effective ways of writing marking keys, as well as how to use marking keys to make judgements. The culmination of this work will be a Professional Development module for teachers on marking methods.

How can you be involved in this study?

We know how important this issue is for English teachers, and we want to offer you opportunities for involvement at various levels of the project.

  1. Complete our Survey – let us know exactly how you feel about marking English. Upper school or lower school, English or Literature, ATAR, General or Foundation – we need to hear from you about your concerns, your preferences, and the strategies you employ to feel confident in your processes. Click here to access the Survey.
  2. Contribute School Marking Models – with the permission of your school, submit samples of your current marking methods. Tell us whether they work or just send them in without any They will be deidentified and no school or teacher names will be recorded. Details for this contribution on our website.
  3. Apply to be a Trial Participant – all trials will be conducted in the school holidays so teachers can be part of the process. Participants will be paid for their time. The marking trial will run from January 9 – 13, while the marking key writing and training trials will happen across April 12 -14 and 18 – 20, respectively. Participation opportunities will be advertised.
  4. Come to Professional Development Sessions – as the project progresses, the ETAWA will be running sessions providing opportunities to learn more about marking methodologies and contribute to the conversation. These will be advertised via the ETAWA newsletter and presented online and in person.

When can we expect results of the project?

We will be delivering findings of different parts of the project through the year. The first presentation will be November 2022 and summarise the comparative studies and literature review. At the ETAWA state conference in May 2023 we will be able to share findings from the wide-scale marking study. And by July 2023 we will be able to roll-out the Professional Development module that will be available to departments or individuals.

We hope you agree with the ETAWA council that this project is a valid investment of members’ resources and will be beneficial to the English teaching community.

Become a member today

The English Teachers Association of WA acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. Country has, for thousands of years, been a place of learning. We at the English Teachers Association of WA are proud to share in this long tradition.

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