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Staff: How HSC marking impacts teaching practice

How HSC marking impacts teaching practice article 

At Wenona, we encourage staff to pursue professional learning in a range of areas. One of those is HSC Marking. Each November approximately 20 members of staff take on the additional work in order to grow as a teacher, gain further understanding marking rubrics, and foster connections with teachers across the state. We spoke to a few of our staff about why they believe HSC marking enhances their professional practice.

Rebekah Poole: I consider HSC marking the most beneficial form of professional development and believe it is crucial for teacher self-reflection

As a pilot marker, I see the benefit in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the state standard and knowing where my students are sitting in comparison to their state-wide cohort. This helps inform my planning and ensure I can give students a clear idea of expectations. Having a clear vision and understanding of what each band of response looks like enables me to create more concise marking rubrics and guide students as to how to reach the highest standards. 

Having marked multiple options within the Modern History syllabus, I am confident in my understanding of how different study options or selected historical personalities best connect to certain question stems. This helps me to assist students with preparing to adapt their knowledge regardless of the question being examined. 

Reading from a state-wide cohort allows me to check the standard against my own teaching and ensure I am aware of how other teachers are resourcing in order to push for recent sources that will stand out from other papers. Understanding the high standard required ensures I filter these concepts through all the classes I teach – and make sure students in younger grades are well prepared to enter stage six. 

Alison Warton: HSC marking has helped me enhance my pedagogical knowledge as I reflect upon and develop different learning activities

Participating in HSC marking has been an incredibly valuable experience. It has deepened my understanding of the requirements of examination questions and the marking guidelines that accompany them. Drawing on my marking experience, I have developed learning activities to target examination skills. These include unpacking the requirements of questions, preparing responses and having the girls apply the BOSTES marking guidelines by peer reviewing each other’s work. 

My content knowledge has deepened through exposure to a wide variety of examples and explanations found in student responses. Marking such a volume of responses has allowed me to see what conceptual areas prove problematic for students, and enhance my pedagogical knowledge as I reflect upon and develop different learning activities. I have seen that marking guidelines provides access to all and now encourage students to attempt all questions, even if only with a definition of key terms, as some background information can be awarded marks. 

Ross Millar: HSC Marking is the best way to engage in professional practice, keep up to date with the curriculum and develop your teaching 

I have been an HSC marker for French Continuers for the past two years. I think all teachers would agree marking is the best professional development you can get. It allows you the opportunity to see how exams are marked, what the board are looking for, and you get the chance to meet teachers from across all educational sectors.

As a younger teacher, I have loved being able to learn so much from a variety of very experienced teachers. This refers to marking exams, teaching practice and, from a linguistic perspective, a chance to speak in French and gain an insight into how others teach a language. The French syllabus is not at all prescriptive, which means it is open to interpretation and a lot of that falls on the classroom teacher. The opportunity to discuss ideas and approaches is so valuable.

My experience as a marker has improved my teaching tenfold. It has been interesting to see how the marking scheme can be applied to each paper, and adapted to suit the candidature for a particular year. HSC Marking is tiring work but is also the best way to engage in professional practice, keep up to date with the curriculum and allow for constant development of your teaching. It’s also good fun!

Crispene Nathan: Through marking such a wide range, I gained confidence in recognising the distinct bands that responses are allocated into

Marking Section 3 of Paper 1 in English allowed me to see a huge range of scripts and texts studied in different schools. It reinforced my understanding of the ‘Discovery’ rubric and how it shaped students’ responses. It emphasised how students should draw heavily from the rubric in their analysis of their texts. Through marking such a wide range, I gained confidence in recognising the distinct bands that responses are allocated into and what characteristics determine that particular band. 

It was also fascinating for me to see how my prejudice about poor spelling and syntax would impact on my marking and I learnt not to judge by these traits but to look beyond into the content and ideas discussed. It was also interesting to note that in many scripts, the discussion of their chosen related text held a strong, engaged and original voice compared to more ‘classical’ ideas on their core text and this showed me that when work is student directed and led, it can be empowering and invigorating for them.

Greg McArdle: The process of marking is challenging and forces you look holistically at the work students are producing

Marking HSC itinerant practical and written papers is valuable experience on multiple levels. It enables you to engage in a space where you are seeing the real breadth of the candidature across the state, gaining a better sense of where students relative to their peers. You see first-hand the strengths of candidate responses and often see different perspectives that will enhance what you can deliver back in the classroom.

From a collegial point of view, it is invaluable in regards to establishing and maintaining dialogue with our professional peers. Getting out to share, brainstorm and discuss issues relevant to our teaching areas is increasingly hard to organise within the demands of a modern school. Marking locks in such a time and provides a chance to hear a variety of perspectives on our subjects, and perhaps more importantly, provides a chance to create networks that enhance our own professional practice or the opportunities possible for our girls. 

Itinerant marking for Design and Technology has been significant part of my personal development, with the chance to work closely with a colleague over an extended period supporting my depth of understanding of the subject. The chance to see the great range of project-work undertaken by students and the many individual approaches to documenting their design process has fed directly back into the feedback and creative approaches I am able to share within my own classroom. The process of marking is challenging and forces you look holistically at the work students are producing. By engaging in that space, you learn to view student achievement from different perspectives and sometimes through a fresh set of eyes.