Lunching today with two MOP colleagues in the School of MACE, we were reflecting on the huge piles of exam marking that we were either about to pick up, had just picked up or (in my case thankfully) had just completed marking. Students may find it hard to believe but exam marking stresses staff out in much the same way as exams stress students out. Exams are where we find out how effectively we have taught our students, how well students have grasped key learning outcomes and how students’ critical thinking skills are developing. And with typical class sizes heading towards 200 and beyond, marking a 2 hour exam paper is no mean feat. It demands organisational and time management skills worthy of the most elaborate revision timetable. I set myself daily targets of how many questions I must mark before taking a break, try to turn off all channels of communication (including with my husband) and use every available moment to mark papers – even the 1 hour between putting my 4 year old daughter to bed and waiting for her to drop off to sleep is productively employed to mark a few more scripts. It is relentless and even though we know the exam period is coming and do the job twice a year, it is still a shock to the system.
Finishing the marking of 200 exam papers produces a feeling not unlike the euphoria that students experience on completion of their last exam – a sense of freedom and relief as normal life returns but tinged with some anxiety over the outcome – Is the mean mark in the right zone? Has the exam produced a sufficient spread of marks? Has it tested students sufficiently rigorously and also allowed the top students to shine?
Without giving the game away too much to students of MACE 60023, I am pretty pleased with the overall exam performance but don’t harangue me for marks yet; they can’t be released to you until after the Results Moderation Meeting at the end of February!
So what’s next in the life of a MACE teaching focused academic. Well after a celebratory cup of tea – it’s back to the office to face the email tsunami which has built up over the last 7 days, to my other projects (the pressing need to organise my own PhD data collection, to progress a Dean’s Strategic Fund project on student feedback that was recently funded, getting to grips with my new School role as Academic Champion for E-learning) oh yes and the small matter of Semester 2 teaching which starts on Monday.
Onward and upward