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Friday, February 6, 1998 Published at 17:22 GMT


Union unhappy about new marking idea
image: [ The academic's say teachers should make 'helpful comments' ]
The academic's say teachers should make 'helpful comments'

A teacher's leader has criticised the idea that teachers should abandon marks out of 10 and give children helpful comments instead.

An academics' report suggests that teachers who grade students in such a way, or award gold stars, could be hindering their pupils' progress.

The report says that instead of encouraging competition between pupils, teachers should instead make helpful comments about where children are going wrong.

Dr Dylan Wiliam and Dr John Marks, Director of the Educational Research Trust, debate the issue ('3 ''56).
The report's authors, Professor Paul Black and Dr Dylan Wiliam, of King's College, London, say shifting the emphasis away from competition could boost average achievement by as much as two GCSE grades.

This would help to meet government education targets and boost achievement, particularly of the least able, they say.

But Nigel de Gruchy, General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, has dismissed the notion as "airy fairy".

"Giving children marks out of 10 doesn't destroy them. Children are stronger than some of these soft adults give them credit for."

But the authors deny their approach is sloppy or soft-centred.

'A hard-edged approach'

Dr Wiliam said: "Actually, it's very hard edged. It would make things much more difficult for teachers.

"Pupils who get poor marks are led to believe they lack ability ... so they 'retire hurt' and try to build up their esteem in other ways.

"While the high achievers can do well in such a culture, the overall result is to enhance the frequency and extent of under-achievement."

Professor Black was the architect of the first proposals for National Curriculum testing and assessment more than 10 years ago.


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