One of the most challenging aspects of an academic’s working life is marking and this is especially true for those at the start of their academic career with little prior experience. Speaking to more established colleagues, marking is often the one part of the job that many do not enjoy. This article will suggest ways of making marking as easy and painless as possible. You may even start to enjoy it.
1. Know the rules!
Every department has a specific policy on marking covering issues such as how long you have to mark each batch, how to deliver feedback and how much to write, not to mention specific mark schemes that need to be adhered to. So, before you even start a batch of marking, make sure you know what is being asked of you. The more prepared you are, the quicker the process of marking will be.
2. Use your mentor
If you are an inexperienced marker then you need to have a member of staff (perhaps the unit leader of the module that you teach on) who you can approach with questions. As you become more experienced you know, for example, what a mark of 60 ‘feels like’, but at the start, marking can seem daunting. Ask your mentor to check your marks if it is not part of the department’s procedure already.
3. Don’t take it personally
If your marking is amended by a colleague or challenged by a student, don’t worry. You haven’t done anything wrong. Your work will be moderated as part of the normal process of checking (this should happen to everyone, not only beginner markers). Increasingly, students are challenging the marks given to them by tutors. This is the culture they are used to at school level as they are encouraged ‘try their luck’ to have their mark raised. The process at university level will involve asking another staff member to check over your mark and feedback comments and adjusting them if necessary.
4. Think of the student’s learning experience
The reason why you are marking is of course to give the student a grade but also to contribute to their learning experience. It is important to spend time giving constructive qualitative feedback. Always say something positive about even the weakest work, and outline practical ways in which they can improve next time. If there is a problem with their work, don’t simply underline it or put a cross through it. Explain exactly where they have gone wrong. Some markers cynically believe that students don’t pay attention to suggestions for improvement and that they are only interested in a numerical mark. However, this is not always the case, and many students do appreciate detailed and developmental feedback.
5. Focus on time management
While being a diligent marker is paramount, it is also important to be able to mark your work within the required timeframe. Novice markers often spend far too long on each script. Once you are used to marking large batches of work, you realise that you have to complete each one pretty quickly. So, keep strictly to the time you have allowed yourself and don’t fall behind with your marking. Students expect their feedback promptly and no doubt another batch of marking will be waiting behind this one, so it’s important for your own sanity to keep to schedule too.