That was the academic year that was…

…mostly characterised by marking over 1800 discrete items of assessment (I’d forgotten about a few when I tweeted this earlier). That came from around 90 hours of lecture/teaching/workshops, and about 20 hours of lab supervision.

The marking felt never ending and I can see why. I’m not offering a great deal of insight into the breakdown of tasks there but suffice to say, the following assessment types are well represented:

  • reflective diary (no not a lab diary which is rarely reflective in the reflective sense)
  • academic essay
  • magazine style article
  • magazines (group)
  • business report (group)
  • business pitch presentation (group)
  • business presentation (group)
  • individual presentation
  • dissertation
  • screencast presentations
  • project report
  • exams
  • class tests
  • infographics
  • application form
  • posters
  • poster interviews
  • project interviews
  • presentation slides
  • watching presentations
  • short written pieces with a specific remit
  • annotated bibliographies
  • dissertation plans

For the forthcoming academic year, there will be a decrease in exams, the academic essay is gone (thank goodness), and some of the short pieces/infographics will be gone. It should be closer to 900 in the next academic year.

As I imply above, I dislike the academic essay so I’m glad to see it gone. I enjoy watching in-person presentations but can only do so many at a time. I’m not hugely fond of oral assessment such as interviews or oral exams, again can only do so many at a time. For the majority of these assessments, every submission was different, or there were several variations. I know that I can’t sit and mark 100 lab reports on the same experiment very easily, but 100 magazine style articles on a wide range of student selected topics is fine. I particularly enjoy marking infographics because part of the whole idea is that they should convey their meaning directly and graphically. I also find annotated bibliographies far superior to ‘just’ reference lists because it is far harder to pad it out when you have to state what information comes from each source.

Many of these assessments are small, intended to allow for feedback that can improve later and larger submissions. I find it very frustrating to mark work where previous feedback has not been acted on (or even viewed in many cases). If feedback on a small piece of work is to include figures/images/tables to convey additional content, I do expect to see figures/images/tables in the longer piece of work. If feedback is to review the reference style guidelines, I expect to see greater adherence to them the next time around. It does not motivate me to write feedback when I see the degree to which it is acted on in some cases. I do have, however, a project in progress at the moment looking at more efficient ways to give feedback. Part of this is allowing students to request what feedback they want and I’ve got to analyse the results of that from this year to plan phase 2 of the project.

Well, bar August reassessment, the marking for this academic year is over. I’m going to devote some time this summer to streamlining assessments further, working out how to provide feedback in a more accessible format (the tools we’re using don’t feel like they are working but that’s nothing new), and also to improving assessment guidelines. I want to make it more clear why we are doing these assessment tasks, and also why they do or why they do not ‘help’ with exams in modules where exams exist. I want to highlight the additional skills embedded in many of these tasks, somewhere I got it into my head that this would be useful.

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