Marking evidence review

Funder: Education Endowment Foundation (£33,541); Principal Investigator: Dr Velda Elliott; Collaborators: Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Dr Therese N. Hopfenbeck, Dr Jenni Ingram; Dr Ian Thompson, Mae Zantout (Oxford University Department of Education); James Richardson, Robbie Coleman (Education Endowment Foundation).

Marking plays a central role in teachers’ work and is frequently the focus of lively debate. It can provide important feedback to pupils and help teachers identify pupil misunderstanding. However, the Government’s 2014 Workload Challenge survey identified the frequency and extent of marking requirements as a key driver of large teacher workloads.

The original purpose of this review was to find evidence that would inform teachers’ decision-making about marking. The time available for marking is not infinite, so the central question was: What is the best way to spend it? However, the review found a striking disparity between the enormous amount of effort invested in marking books, and the very small number of robust studies that have been completed to date. While the evidence contains useful findings, it is simply not possible to provide definitive answers to all the questions teachers are rightly asking.

This review therefore summarises what we can conclude from the evidence – and clarifies the areas where we simply do not yet know enough. It also identifies a number of key questions that schools should consider when developing their marking strategies, including considerations around workload and the trade-offs teachers face in adopting different approaches.


Elliott, V., Baird, J., Hopfenbeck, T.N., Ingram, J., Thompson, I., Usher, N., Zantout, M., Richardson, J. & Coleman, R. (2016) A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking. Education Endowment Foundation.

Media coverage

Eight ways teachers can reduce their marking mountain, The Guardian, 15 May 2016

Teachers spend nine hours a week marking – despite lack of evidence that it works, SecEd, 4 May 2016

Could teachers do less marking for better results?, Phys Org, 2 May 2016

£2m announced for research into marking strategies, Schools Week, 29 April 2016

Could teachers do less marking for better results?, My Science, 29 April 2016

Could teachers do less marking for better results?, University of Oxford News, 29 April 2016

‘Critical lack of evidence’ on effective marking, EEF warns, Education Business, 29 April 2016

EEF Announces £2 million Fund For Research Into Primary and Secondary Marking Strategies, teachwire, 29 April 2016

Teachers still using ‘deep-marking’ techniques, despite lack of evidence that it helps pupil learning, Times Educational Supplement, 29 April 2016

All work and low pay, The Economist, 16 April 2016