When marking is not a chore

I’d be lying if I said I always enjoyed marking students’ work. That being said, I do always appreciate the importance of marking, and its role in feeding information about performance back to students and providing direction as to how they could improve.

However, this semester’s marking work has really brought home how valuable the exercise can be for me as an academic; providing me with information about my performance and providing direction as to how I might improve!

Having taken over as convenor of the Bachelor of Communication (Honours) course for the first time this year, I am faced with some heavy-duty marking responsibilities. In addition to teaching a specific communication course at this level, I’m also teaching the general Research Methods course for the School of Design, Communication and IT. There are about 30 students in this course from across our School’s four disciplines: visual communication, natural history illustration, communication and IT:

I’ve just finished marking the semester one learning journals. What a joy to see the diversity of projects. They ranged from the application of IT in defence learning programs through to illustrating what colour dinosaurs might have been, based on the latest scientific information. There was a project on how filmmakers include their fans in marketing efforts and another on examining how visual branding is interpreted across cultures. The range of almost 30 projects, all related to those creative industries our school teaches and researches, was mind blowing.

The students’ learning journals about these projects offered great insights into how differently people process their learning. Some kept journals as a blog, others used the university platform, Blackboard. About ten students kept hard copy journals – I brought home a washing basket filled with folders and visual diaries to mark last weekend. In a primarily online assessment world, this was a bit of a novelty for me.

From all journals I could readily see what was working in my course and what night need some work for next year. It was a great way to get the nitty-gritty feedback that is often missing from general satisfaction-type survey results.

From the teaching perspective, I love a learning journal. I know some students find them a chore but many report, especially after the submission, that they’ve found it worthwhile in the end. I’ve been using learning journals since 2007 and have even published a paper or two about it, but this is the most I’ve learnt from an assignment I’ve set for students.

As of this Friday I’ll have almost 30 methodology papers to mark. I’m almost tempted to say that I am looking forward to it ;). Almost.


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