Mark my words

Matthew Evans

Any economist knows that people respond to incentives. Senior leaders in schools should bear this in mind when they seek to hold teachers to account. Pay attention to a behaviour and generally you’ll see more of that behaviour over time. We need to therefore be sure that what we spend time looking at is really what we want more of, and be aware of what we may get less of as a result (the opportunity cost, as economists call it).

Let’s take the example of marking books.

Marking is generally regarded as a ‘good thing’. Parents want to see it. Students expect it. It shows that good work is recognised and mistakes corrected. It is hard to disagree that marking is at the core of good teaching.

Therefore more marking must be even better.

Policies which specify the frequency of marking practice inevitably lead to accountability mechanisms which reinforce the…

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