Monday, 30 January 2017

Love teaching: loathe marking

I was wondering recently why lecturers largely appear to the teaching, but loathe the marking.

After some consideration, I came down to the issue being that teaching is a positive and building process, where we are adding to people, and helping them become more than they are. Whereas marking can be a negative and destructive process, where it feels like we are taking away from people, telling them all they aren't (yet).

While I try to make marking a positive feedback process, where I am focused on letting students know what they can improve, it still feels judgemental to me.

I think I might needs to do some additional thinking, or some research about this idea, because I suspect that this judgement is the nub of why we can procrastinate about getting started on - and completing - marking. It is a negative task, a judgemental and critical job. It can also be frustrating, annoying, and disheartening.

As Katherine Pickering Antonova (2012) says, "I think it’s the disappointment. Grading involves layers and layers of disappointed expectations."

We see clearly when students have done the work, and when they 'get' what we are teaching them. The opposite is also crystalline.

In thinking about this, I wonder if there is another way to approach marking which is less negative, judgemental, and fraught with emotion. I wonder what that way might be. Is there a way to pull students in to evaluating their own work before I get it, or as I get it?

Is there a way that we can collaborate on this? Though in thinking about this, it may not be possible. The students who are not making the grade will not be able to collaborate, largely because - for whatever reason - they aren't understanding the material or instruction. Ergo, they will not understand how to collaborate as equals either.

The issue is really one of understanding. It is one of the understanding the language, understanding the material, understanding the structure of the course, understanding the principles of the course, understanding the learning outcomes, understanding how all the assessments on the course fit together and build towards final course success.

The issue of understanding is also an influence on previous feedback: when that feedback is not taken in. There is nothing more frustrating than telling the student the same thing two or three times, and they still don't 'hear'. Or act.

Still. There must be a better way to mark, without the judgement. Without feeling like the failure is yours. That it is your inability to connect with the student, to inspire the student, to create the environment for the student to become motivated, to encourage the student to do the readings, to help the student understand the importance of the material, to engage, that is why they have not 'got it'.




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