Have you ever heard an educator say, “I will be spending the next three weeks marking and I cannot wait!”? I have been working in university education for over 10 years and I don’t recall ever hearing that. Is that how it has to be? Why don’twe (always) look forward to marking?
As a student, undergrad, and postgrad, were you looking forward to your programme’s assessment? Take your time. Yes? No? I must say, overall, I was not. In the 7 years I have spent as a student in HE, I remember being enthused by only three assignments. For those, I did not count the hours and I was proud of the work I submitted. It certainly was not easy but it was so much better than the December and summer timed-exams. These assessments I kind of remember but mostly as a distant unpleasant experience. Was I proud of the essays I wrote in exam conditions that asked me to “regurgitate” what the lecturer dictated during the year? No, I was not and why would I be? It was no more enjoyable than sitting through an hour of our lecturer reading his book to us (yes, that did happen!).
Why don’t we set assessments we want to mark and that students will be proud to produce?
When I think back about the three assessments I was inspired by I can identify some common threads. I had chosen all three, two were aligned to optional modules that also gave us the choice on what we were going to work on for the assignment and the last one was my masters dissertation. The other common point was how real they felt. One was what would be required of me in a professional context and this was really motivating, I had to apply everything I had learnt to a real situation and should I go down that professional avenue I already had something I could use complete with feedback to act on. For the other two, while the end product was traditional (coursework and dissertation), the process was real as I got to interview and write to key people for the work I was doing some ‘research’ on. They gave me their time, I had to do right by them, I wanted to do right by them.
What will motivate your students? What agency will you give them in shaping their assessments? What role will you play? What will make you excited to do your marking? It does not have to be how it has always been!