By Ruth Wagstaff
The first time as a marker can be daunting. At least that is how I found it. I have spoken to other PhD candidates who took to marking like a duck takes to water, and I am the first to admit I have a lot to learn from the marking “ducks”. But this blog is not for the marking ducks. This blog is for those feeling daunted by the prospect of marking. It is a reflection of my first marking experience, the strategies that I would use next time round, and proof that it is possible survive and thrive.
Not every essay will be easily understood. Sounds obvious. The undergraduate essay is designed to allow the marker to see how a student is thinking and is linking concepts. Essay writing is a complex skill, and it is not uncommon for literacy skills to suffer as students take their first steps in writing an academic paper. The end result is that the argument can be as difficult to find as car keys tossed aside because one was too busy to put them in their usual place.
Strategy – have realistic expectations of essay standards .
Marking can be mentally draining. That shouldn’t have come a surprise. But did. It took a lot of concentration to understand the essays, to assist with helpful comments, and grade according to the marking criteria.
Strategy – take breaks, do some weeding, have a cuppa, and ring a friend for a quick chat.
Marking is not a walk in the park. I had a visions marking while relaxing outside in the sun–a cuppa in one hand, and the other tapping out helpful comments. Reality was very different– I was inside, stressed, and wondering why had I said yes. And why was I stressed? I didn’t understand role as a marker, and what was expected of me.
Strategy – ask the lecturer questions about anything related to the marking, and be honest with how I am coping.
Navigating new UConnect tabs can be like opening up treasure chest or Pandora’s box. I have a confession. I thought I would be an expert at navigating UTeach. I am an expert at JustU, ULearn, and UAsk. But, quickly realised that I was no expert because I could not find the link to access the assignments. I had visions of crashing the USQ computer systems and deleting vital student information. (Have I mentioned I have a tendency to catastrophise?) Once I finally admitted that The Markers Guide was making no sense, I sent an urgent SOS to the lecturer. The lecturer made one phone call, the problem was identified, and in less than five minutes I had all the access I needed.
Strategy – forget pride, and ask for help because I am not expected to know everything.
So, my first marking experience was characterised valuable lessons about expectations, being kind to self, and that I have a tendency to catastrophise. I was also reminded me of the incredible resource that we have in USQ staff. It was no walk in the park, but it was a worthwhile experience And yes – I will do it again and put the strategies into action.