Those pesky exam corrections

It’s nice and quiet around college this week as the students aren’t back yet. However, this is also correction week since the semester exams took place before the Christmas break (one of the by-products of semesterisation is that we now get to correct twice a year). Most academics detest exam correction but actually I don’t really mind that much – it always takes less time than expected (unlike research) and I like a job that has a definite beginning, middle and end with room for targets and treats along the way. I’ve also learnt a few tricks over the years…

Oh joy

First, I like to correct in series i.e. student by student. Some lecturers claim it’s easier to mark objectively if you correct in parallel i.e. correct all the first questions, then all the second questions etc. However, it’s definitely trickier to tot up the marks at the end this way. It seems to me that there is less chance of marks being overlooked (the real worry) if a script is corrected question by question because you get a feel for how a particular student is getting on as you plough through the script…and it’s also more entertaining. Another trick is to sort the scripts alphabetically before you start – it’s fun working your way through the alphabet, planning for lunch between the Gs and the Hs (bonus marks for students with unusual initials!).

In our college, exam scripts are corrected by name and the students often campaign for anonymous marking. Little do they know that from a teacher’s perspective, it’s much harder to fail a person than a number, particularly if you know that student made a decent effort during the semester. Indeed a great deal of correction time goes on trying to squeeze in a few extra marks for the borderliners; if anything, I would expect pass marks to drop if anonymous marking was introduced.

A decent effort?

Right now, there is quite a row going on in the Institute of Technology sector concerning payment for exam correction. It may come as a surprise that IoT lecturers are paid extra for correcting exams (not very much). I suspect the situation originally arose because secondary teachers are paid to mark the Leaving Certificate and  IoT lecturers are represented by the same union.

Anyway, that payment is now under threat and I’m not sure what to make of the debate. What is certainly unfair is that some lecturers have hundreds of exams to correct due to large class sizes, while others get off lightly. Perhaps a sensible solution would be for the Institutes to intoduce payment that starts after the first hundred scripts. However, I suspect that as 3rd level cutbacks bite deeper, payment for exam correction will become a thing of the past..

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