In this episode of The Learning Network's Community & Family Studies Podcast I dive into why it is so important to have deep understanding of how HSC marking really works.

Setting your students up for success in their exams is reliant on confidence, meaningful teaching & lessons & skills taught with the end goal in mind.

If you're looking to gain valuable insight into how HSC marking actually works, check out Marking Experience in CAFS; so you can best prepare your students for their exams every step of the way.

For more information on Marking Experience in CAFS, check out the show notes below!


Show Notes 


Join me and my expert guest panel for a day to CHANGE the way you mark & teach Community & Family Studies. 



Looking for CAFS resources to help you & your CAFS crew thrive this term? Check out my Groups in Context resource booklets & other CAFS resources below!


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The Learning Network

Since 2004 I have been teaching PDHPE and Community & Family Studies. I love learning. It lights me up. I am so passionate about supporting you to be the best educator you can be.

My Purpose
To grow a lively and connected community, where Community & Family Studies teachers can network, learn and share with each other.

My Mission
To build on the knowledge, understanding and skills of Community & Family Studies teachers to set their students up for success with confidence.



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Show Transcription


Episode Intro - Kelly:

Hey everyone and welcome back to another episode of The Learning Network podcast. In this podcast episode, I chat to you about what it's really like to mark your YouTube CAFS examinations. And I think, you know after doing it for 16 years, it does take its toll. And I think providing that feedback to my students was one of the most valuable and satisfying things I was able to do as a teacher to provide them with lots of strategy about what they're doing well about what they can do to improve and actually how to level up their success in CAFS. So enjoy this podcast episode. 

Podcast Intro - Kelly:

Hey, I'm Kelly Bell. Welcome to The Learning Network Podcast. I guide Community and Family Studies teachers, newbies and experienced, through best practice to improve knowledge, increase empowerment and alleviate stress, to help you and your students to make meaningful connections across the course. I will share strategic and purposeful applications from my 16 years experience in the classroom that I have adopted to increase student motivation, enjoyment, engagement and results. Together, we will grow and transform your CAFS crew to the next level without impacting your sleep and wellbeing process. To join my free how to improve writing and fast track results webinar, head to So tune in, get inspired and let's connect, learn and grow together. 

 Episode - Kelly:

Hello CAFS crew. I hope you guys are super well. And I'm recording this podcast episode, right at the end of attempt to. And I know that you guys are burnt out, I see you, I hear you. And I'm thinking of you guys across New South Wales schools and teachers, I should say, in public and Catholic schools are actually striking tomorrow. So this is a second strike that's happened this year. And I think it's just testament to what teachers are going through the burnout, the stress and how our profession is changing and affecting our well being.


And look, it's nothing new guys. It's absolutely nothing new this is happening for has been happening for such a long time. And I think, hopefully, as a result of the strikes this year, that you know, something happens something changes in our profession, our workload, and I kind of I've, I feel for you, I'm a statistic, I have no no teacher anymore, I still have my nursery accreditation, and that's still going to be ticking away. But I'm not a classroom teacher anymore. I am a statistic. And as a result of the burnout, that I felt being in a school being surrounded by people who weren't very supportive, I decided to leave the classroom. And if you've known and following me for a little while, you will know that I am a glass half full type of person leaving the classroom was an absolute blessing because I get to make a bigger difference to community family studies teachers and their students across New South Wales.


Now, not everyone is in that position to leave. I feel totally blessed. I had the support of my husband. And he was telling me for quite some time to leave just to leave. Anyway, that's a whole nother story. But thinking of you guys this week, as you do that, and I hope that the holidays provide you some sort of
I don't know some sort of break. So today's episode is really I'm having a chat about marking experience and what it's really like to mark your HSC students work. Now I know that, you know, after 16 years of teaching CAFS, I'd hit the HSC back to back every year, my first year I had your living. But, you know, in turn four of that year, I had to mark the IRP. And marking their work is tricky, but and it's time consuming. But today I'm going to share with you guys some things that are going to help you really, I don't know, just approach it from a different perspective, I feel blessed to be able to make my students work, it's a reflection of what you're like as a teacher, it gives you immediate feedback on what you're doing. And if you haven't thought about from that perspective, before, I'd love for you to shift that shift your current understanding of what marking is actually about.


Marking gives you an opportunity to see what you're doing, if it's working or not, and whether your students are actually getting what you're teaching them. So look, I think for marking, you know, over such a long period of time, it just gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I was doing, what I was doing well, whether my students were getting what I was actually teaching them and then what I could do and shift and change to make a bigger difference in the classroom with my students. So I love marking i I've met many of you guys at professional learning before. And you know that I would say that, that I absolutely love marking my students work because I feel blessed to be able to do the marking that my students marking of their work. But it also is very time consuming. So anyway, this episode is going to give you lots of practical strategies. And obviously some big picture things that you guys can implement in your classroom when you mark your students work. So we know that assessment is all part of the teaching and learning cycle, it just has to happen. You know, we, we plan. So work in our scope and sequence, we do our assessment schedules. And we work we work out things that we can implement in our classroom to actually test the understanding of our kids. And we have marking, and we have assessments, and we have feedback. That's all part of that teaching and learning cycle. It tests out our students knowledge, understanding and skills. And I absolutely love that our assessments must align with the outcomes and content that we're actually assessing the kids on.


So I love that and I've seen some assessment tasks that actually don't do that. So starting with those outcomes is essential and crucial in planning your assessment tasks, but I think Look, it's a great thing to be able to look at our students work and to see where the gaps are, and what we can do to actually bridge that gap between what they what they know, and what they should know, in all of their work. And look, you know, as, as a HSC. Teacher, it's very different to teaching our juniors and if you haven't, if you've been in the game for not not that long, you'd kind of know that shift that it's rigorous. It's hard. It's tricky, because the kids are answering unseen questions, especially in the exams at the trial of HSC. They're unseen. We can't prep them out, we can't kind of give them hints and tips about what's going to be like, because we don't know, but I think, look, I really love giving my students feedback, but also assessments. I could do a whole episode about how much I love assessment tasks and writing tasks and marking guidelines. But that's, again, a whole nother story. But look for us in community Family Studies. Our students have our assessment. So we have four assessment tasks, you guys know that now, one of them has to be some sort of component of the IRP minimum of 10%, and then a maximum of 20% weighting. So that is mandatory across New South Wales and SMA that that regulation quite a few years ago now. So when the HSC reforms happened, so one task on the IRP so essentially, we have three other tasks that we we can assess our kids on. And that's up to us to look at outcomes, look at our students work out, how are we going to assess them? Now my advice, obviously, is to have another assessment task on the trial. So roughly, you know, 25 to 30% of the trial, we need to assess our kids, our kids understanding and skills in those unseen questions in exam conditions.


So our trial has to happen, I believe. And we can't actually have any more assessments in our assessment schedule that replicate the HSC, other than the trial, so we can't have a half year anymore, because it does replicate the HSC. So just to be mindful of that. But obviously all of those sort of requirements are available on the NASA website around Assessment and Reporting in CAFS, but obviously, the Assessment and Reporting around all stage six courses. So that exam, maximum weighting of 30%, which is great because we don't want to assess over assess our kids on exams. So in terms of marking school based assessment tasks, it's really important to be able to have an assessment that differentiates our students. Now that goes without saying we want assessments to be rigorous. We want assessments to actually test the knowledge, understanding and skills of our students. Again, as a result of my coaching and mentoring and lots of different things I've been involved in over the last 12, 14 years in CAFS. I've seen assessment tasks that maybe some of our kids like our junior kids might be able to do, or they might not be as rigorous rigorous as what we want them to be or a film study, or a brochure, or a display or maybe a presentation. And look, I am so guilty of that. When I first started teaching, I wanted to have some really creative tasks that really were outside the box. And they were way too outside the box, I really would too far outside of left field.


So having assessment tasks that are going to test the knowledge understanding and especially skills of our students is absolutely crucial. We also want to be able to show to our students that we're assessing them with a variety of tasks. Again, I've had lots of conversation with CAFS teachers across, you know, New South Wales over the last 12 or so years around that and what that should really look like, you don't have to go or fancy you don't have to go too far outside of left field like I might have, but having assessment tasks that really are rich, or purposeful and strategic more than anything. So you might coach your mentoring sessions. I've worked with many of you guys on creating assessment tasks that are rich, or purposeful and have a strategy behind them rather than things like a case study, like a media file, things that don't necessarily test the skills of our kids knowledge and understanding maybe, but we want those skills to come through. So it could be a case study, it could be a variety of scenarios. It could be some unseen questions, it could be a whole heap of multiple choice questions, as well, as a case study that type of thing is what I'm talking about. It could be a series of unseen questions under exam conditions in a free period in a free period in a period. It could be you know, during a double, it could be an assessment task.


Look, I think it needs to replicate what the endgame is. And we know the end game is the HSC. So we need to make sure our kids are actually prepared before they come into that assessment task. That kind of goes without saying many of our assessments that I've seen when I've you know been doing some coaching mentoring. The teachers may have said that might be in our task but not necessarily actually taught the content. Now know that you guys are are very diligent and hardworking and know your staff. But we need to really have assessment tasks that are actually going to, we've taught the kids the content, and it's going to test their knowledge, understanding and skills within that. But look, that's something that I would love to see more of, that we actually teach the content first, before we actually have the assessment task. So kids need to understand the task first. So what I like to do when I give my students out their assessment task is actually go through it with them in the in class, probably for about a period, period and a bit, go through the task, explain it, show them a scaffold, provide a scaffold to them, maybe provide some exemplars. Now, a mistake I actually made quite a few years ago, maybe six years ago was actually give some sample answers. That was a big nono, because some of my kids then use those as their answer, and just rearranged it a little bit. So just providing some sentence starters might be a great way or, or some sort of exemplar that is different to what the question that's in there, that type of thing is always a great way to go.


So scaffolding the task for the kids, obviously, working on that peel structure, peel paragraph structure with them, and making sure they nail absolutely now those Glossary of key words, before they actually start their assessment task and giving the kids plenty of opportunity to actually work on those in class. I'm not talking about a week of assessment task, work, but actually maybe a lesson or two on the assessment task. So you can give them the best guidance around that. And this kind of, I suppose, goes without saying, but providing him with other opportunities outside of the class to work on their assessment task. Now not saying that you sit down at recess and lunch with the kids, but providing some sort of opportunity to give them feedback. Outside of class is always a great way to go. You might have a structured revision session in your week. Now I did that, probably back in 2015. Or, yeah, maybe 15. Actually, even prior to that, I think I might have done that. Before I had the girl we had the girls, but having to set that drop in once a week for my kids to come into class, during recess or lunch, to get some feedback from me or ask me questions about what we're doing. Now, of course, we need to protect our time and well being but this is something that you could offer as an optional thing, and optional extra to your students. If you have multiple classes, it's also a great way to go because you can bring those classes together to have similar conversations across those classes around content around study around revision around preparation for exams, or assessment tasks.


So we ended up calling them, what were they called, I can't remember what they were called when I worked in the Catholic system, but 14 years. I can't remember. But we ended up calling them recession review or no common Think of what it was memory blank. But we had some sort of, you know, way to call them. And we provided that feedback to the kids. We brought on some morning tea for them. And we I had it every thing else but every Wednesday at recess. And that meant that when I you know worked in a bigger school, we had four classes, essentially five at one stage, coming into the same room, I'm into my room at recess, and getting feedback from me and anyone else who was willing to come at the time. Teachers I'm talking about but also students and look, it was really great way to give kids feedback on their assessments and to really work together.


Of course, your time is precious, so you can work out the best way that might happen. But that was a great way for us to connect as a CAFS crew as a CAFS class as a CAFS cohort to have everyone on the same page, but also to get feedback from each other, and as well as feedback from us as a teachers. So in terms of feedback, many of you guys have heard me talk about feedback by now. And I think it's really important to give the kids immediate, timely feedback on their assessment tasks. And I really do think that they deserve to get feedback on their assessments, once you've written them, so I'm not sure that it's right in their drafts, I'm not talking about you guys rewriting their assessment tasks, or you re wording it, paraphrasing it for them. That's their job, it's not your job to rewrite their work, but giving them little hints and tips along in the margin. Or if they sent you a Google Doc, providing some feedback. You know, when you go insert, comment, to give them some feedback on what they've done so far, what they've done, well, improvements to be made, and actions that they need to take to actually improve. And that literally goes back to my wind feedback, you know, strategy that kids need to give be given feedback on what they've done well, okay, here's what you've done. Well keep doing that. Keep going with that. Here are some improvements to be made. Here are some things that you might not have nailed yet, or some things that you're continuing to work towards, and then either get my students to do it themselves, or I might kind of guide them and steer them in the right direction. And what are you actually going to do about it? What are some necessary actions that you're going to take to actually improve?

So that's my WIN feedback if you haven't come across that before. Inside my signature course Strive. We dive into that, as well as the my CAFS membership but in the CAFS collective so if you'd like to learn more about those head over to learn forward slash collective, or forward slash, strive about those two offers. But yeah, it's really important to give the kids immediate feedback, timely feedback about what they're doing well, what they need to do to improve and necessary actions to improve. So that's a precursor. That's all the things that happened before you actually start marking. But once the kids actually have submitted their tasks, it's tricky. We want to know what they've done. Well, we want to know what that what we need to do to improve and what we have to do as a teacher to help bridge that gap between what they're doing. Now many I know many of you guys who listen have done HSC marking before. And you have told me that it's the best thing that you've ever done to, you know, to really have an idea of what it's really like, because once you take that HSC marking, you know, people can get an insight into what it's really like to do HSC marking in community Family Studies. And inside marking experience in CAFS my marking simulation course, markers, and I show you what you can do to help set your students up for success. And what it's really like to, you know, do HSC marking in that. So that's a really great opportunity for you guys. And our offer in term three and Tim two, week two every year.


So if you haven't jumped into that yet, and if you're listening to this in 2022, we have our market experience in CAFS happening week two, term three on the Thursday. And it's all day from 830 to 230. And we go and take you through what's really like the sessions are facilitated by senior markers in communion family studies. So these beautiful ladies have between 18 to 20 years of HSC marking. And then I jump into sessions and facilitate the process in between the sessions and kind of bring things together and talk about key takeaways. So absolutely amazing experience, all of our teachers have had a lot of success as a result of doing that course, and have absolutely loved it and said Game Changer loved it. It has changed the way I mark. It's changed the way I teach in community Family Studies. And I think that's the biggest insight that you know, you guys have spoken to me about during HSC marketing that it's not just about the marketing part of it, it's about what you can actually do to change the way you teach your kids and prepare them for that HSC.


So in terms of practical things for marking what I suggest to teachers is get a whole heap of your marking guidelines printed off in a five in a different colour. So the kids know that that's the marking guideline once you've marked it, and you can kind of give them some feedback on that marking guideline have it separate staple it but not give the marks to the kids yet. So what I suggest in all, you know, all my office strive, even in market experience, I talk about this and also in the CAFS collective my membership, I talk to teachers about not providing the mark on the paper to their students. Obviously, there's a method to my madness, as as you would probably know. But it all comes down to that idea of formative assessment and making kids you know, part of that learning and engaging with the marketing guidelines and working out what they've done, what they've done well what they need to do to improve and where their mark sits, like what have they actually done to, to nail this or to maybe get certain marks. So I actually get my kids to read the marking guidelines, engage with it cohort, what needs to be improved across a cohort, and then what the kids can actually do to improve on each of those areas.


So if it's a question around the option, okay, we need to really embed well being, in our part see a bit more, or we need to really show that clear paragraph structure, we need to really get to the point in our short answer. So giving the kids that explicit feedback on the responses. In the actual practical side of the marking, what you're looking for in the students response is, have they shown you knowledge and understanding of the content. So that's the knowledge and understanding and how they've been able to apply the skills. And when I'm talking about the skills, I'm really talking about them applying that Glossary of key word, or actually providing explicit strategies. Or maybe it might be showing a number of different health services or how effective is that government legislation in supporting the group or maybe has had a really, you know, clear impact and technology, whatever it is, but actually diving deeper with the kids on those areas and giving them you know, that guidance about how they've gone where you can also do is when you're when you're marking your students work, you can use two easy colours to use. And my colours are pink for positive, so pink for all the positive things things are done well. And then green for growth, green felt tip pen, borrow whatever you come up with whatever it is about giving that that feedback that they need to do what they need to do to improve in green, that stems from surely Clark's work in formative assessment. She calls it tickled pink, and green for growth. I think she also calls it but look tickled pink is a bit weird to me a little bit strange, but that's why I call it green for growth and pink for positive. So things that you've done well in in pink, giving them feedback in that, and then anything they've done well, so things that they need to do to improve in green, no red. I've said this before, I'll say it again. But reds like stop no, stop doing that. No, no, no. And that kind of is a bit of a negative thing for the kids, they, they see that red pen all over their page and go, Well, I may as well not have been done that assessment task. So the pink and green is a bit of a psychological thing.

You can even use stamps and that type of thing to give the kids feedback, teach it Dotco have some really cool stamps that you guys can use to give feedback to your students, you can also do some create some custom stamps, which I've been able to do for my students. Just on showing, this is what you've done well, this is what you need to do to improve, or possibly even I got one created around the glossary of key words. I also got one created around just my my four main areas. So how they address a glossary of key word. have they shown me peel paragraph structure? Have they given examples? And how they show me knowledge and understanding? And that kind of goes down to my glue, my glue strategy? So of course you have keyword where they address that whatever, what are they done to address it? If not, okay, this is what you need to do? Where's the link back to? The examples are back to the question. Knowledge and Understanding is for you to understanding the content and skills. And then where am I example? Where are their examples in their response. So using stamps using post it notes using pens, also some pretty cool tools that you guys can use to make your marking it a little bit easier to save time in terms of marking what I like to do is put my, my, my student responses obviously separated out, don't kind of go question, you know, 123 and try to mark it like that have questions. One mark, old question one question to mark or question two, question three, Mark, all of Question three, it just allows your brain to kind of become embedded into that particular question. Rather than trying to get your head around three at once you can kind of go okay, I'm just gonna mark question one at the stage. And then what I'd also suggest for you guys to do is actually separate those piles out to high, middle low. So you mark all the highs, you might start with that come up with some benchmarks. Questions that are sorry, answer that just get to that four out of four, you might have those benchmarks set up. And that's similar to what happens at HSC marking. So get the benchmark work out. Okay, this is my benchmark, this is my, what I'm looking for. And then kind of mark according to that, so go all of your highs and middles, your lows, and then assign those marks, record them separately, whether it be in Central or whatever system you're using, or in your daybook or in a spreadsheet. And then you have that recording of their mark. Because when you want to give them feedback, you want their marks not to be be on the page. So separating it out into those three piles really gives you guys clear guidance.


And you might kind of move that, you know, move that one of the middles up to the highs, you might move one of the lows up to the highs, and then kind of it just allows you to see that spread also across your cohort. And then you can kind of just focus on that, that type of answer. So that's one little way to be really efficient. stapling all the marketing guidelines on at once is a great way, maybe signing everything if you if you have to have a signature on there or even a stamp get, you know, get someone to stamp it for you. It just provides the kit you know you sometimes you're just trying to save time with this. Another good suggestion for you guys is to mark it in chunks. So you might start with question one you might spend an hour on that one and then you might have a break you know the next day you might go back to that month keep going back to that pile. Don't try to chop and change otherwise your head just gets into a different space. If you can and this is probably you know a bit more achievable if you have don't have children or don't have pets or you're caring for someone but you Doing it in you know, a lot at a time. So you might try to spend, you know, two hours on a Saturday marking that you know that one question, obviously have a life, have a break, and then come back back to that one, finish it off, have another break again, and then plug away the next sort of marking. Rather than going, I'm gonna do 20 minutes here, when you told me it said, I'm going to do you know, five minutes here, you just lose that train of thought having that consistency. And I'm pretty sure that's why they do HSC CE marking in that one block, you know, at the end of the year in October November, to have it all done at once, rather than trying to, you know, have bits and pieces at a time. Of course, you know, once we're stuck in them, once you do that deep work, we're really in it. And we can give the kid some explicit feedback on what we're doing. So the other thing that you can also do to save some time is to work with a teammate to enter data. So I know that worked for us. You know, when we're doing, we had four, four classes at once, I'm talking hundreds of kids. So getting a buddy and butting up with that colleague and saying, Okay, let's enter our marks together, it also ensures that you're entering the market and you're cross referencing things. So you know, having a central open, one person is actually calling out names. And then the other person is entering marks, in terms of calling out names, no marks and all HSC papers.


And I'd really love for you guys to give me some feedback on that I don't want your students to, I don't want you to know who you're marking because I think sometimes that provides some bias. If you know, if I didn't know if Sonia was kind of tracking at a band six, you might go straight to her paper, and then that might then provide you with a bit of, you know, bias according to how you're gonna mark the other kids, if you have no marks on so if you have no names in the papers, that allows you to have none of that personal or professional bias that might exist, or it just doesn't give you it gives you you know, everyone's anonymous, so you can kind of apply that that way. Think that's also a great strategy for the kids as well, because they know that, you know, doesn't matter what class you're in, that marker is going to give you feedback on what you've done well what to do to improve and then some, some actions to take away. The other thing that is also a great strategy for for marking is to actually do some p marking. So maybe also pilot marking, you know, pure pilot marking whichever term you would use, and getting everyone on the same page, I would actually suggest for you guys to have the same marker. Mark the question, so you've been doing question one? That's that's that, you know, that's marker number one. Question two is marker number two, but make sure everyone is on the same track when you start marking. So everyone kind of knows what to expect. But also going through the assessment task with the kids. Everyone knows and everyone, everyone is on the same page, if you have multiple classes around that assessment tasks, so you know, Mrs. Bell might mark question one, Mrs. Brown might mark question two. And Mr. Hewitt Mark might mark question three, but everyone knows what each other, why they're marking it like that, how they're marking it like that. And they might have some some benchmarks.


Before they go, you guys actually go away and start marking it, it just provides that that seamless kind of transition. But it also gets everyone on board, when they're giving feedback to the kids. When you're giving feedback to the students. If you have multiple classes, it's a great thing to bring them together. So your research session, if you have it, then bring all those classes together and say, Okay, here's why I gave it that. I'm giving some feedback on on a spreadsheet or possibly even, we ended up doing a wind feedback sheet. This is what the cohorts done well, this is what the cohort need to do to improve. And this is what the cohort needs to do to actually start improving on that. So give that feedback to the kids directly in a revision session or in a recess session together. So hopefully that provide you guys lots and lots of practical strategies to improve the way you do marking at school. And if you'd like to get an insight into what's really like to do HSC marking, I'd love for you to join my experience in your markers in my marketing experience in CAFS course, it is via zoom 8:30am to 2:30pm on Thursday, term three is our next one. And look absolutely game changer. You absolutely love it and all the feedback that we have received last year we had 60 teachers take market experience in CAFS last year across New South Wales said it's the best professional in they've ever had. And if you talk to a HSC marker, I'm pretty sure they would say the same. So head over to learn forward slash marking CAFS and you'll get all the details around that. 


Thanks for joining The Learning Network, I'd love to hear what connected with you most about today's episode. Take a screenshot and tag me on Instagram and Facebook, @thelearnnet. If you'd like to know more about my courses, MasterClasses, Coaching and Mentoring and Membership, you can DM me over on Facebook or Instagram or head to Don't forget to stay connected by subscribing to Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and if you love today's episode, I would be so honoured if you could please leave me a review. See you again next week. Let's continue to connect, grow and learn together to make a huge impact on the students we teach. 

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traditional custodians on whose land I walk, work & live.
This land was and always will be the land of the First Nations People.