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Patrick Andrews

Video feedback - further thoughts

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I have been providing more video feedback and thinking more about the advantages and drawbacks.

Students have written and said it seems more personal and I can see why this seems to be the case. They can see that for at least ten minutes, their assignment is what I am concentrating on (of course, it is much more than this as I have already read and commented on the assignments).  This might help to reduce the "loneliness of the (long) distance learner". 

One student commented on how she had to listen on her phone and this represents an investment in terms of time for her and probably means that she will be engaging more with the feedback.  This does not mean she has to agree with it but it will at least mean she has something to reflect on as she makes progress.

Something I have come to think is that I should not rerecord unless I make a serious mistake.  The hesitations and grappling for the right way to express my views should be part of the experience for the writer.  I am not aiming to make my feedcback an example of a "good presentation" but an attempt to take the student's work seriously and ideally engage in dialogue.

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Patrick Andrews

"Everyone hates marking"

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This is the arresting title of an article by Lorna Finlayson in a recent edition of the London Review of Books.  She describes it as an activity that is despised.

However, she refers to it as being dignified and noble, even magical.  I think I can see something in what she says about this.  As a tutor, it is something that I spend a very large proportion of my time doing and I am aware that my marking has important consequences.  At times, it can inspire students and I sometimes have very grateful messages from students who feel that they have learned something from my marking (this is parhaps part of the noble and magical part).  However, I also get messages from students saying they find it confusing or discouraging (perhaps linking back to the "despised activity" Finlayson refers to.

Nowadays, we have criteria we are expected to mark to and this doubtless provides a transparency that was not the case when I was a student in the 1980s (I had no idea why I got the marks I did).  However, as Finlayson writes, these are often rather general and subjective. 

I prefer to think that the formative feedback suggesting to students what their strengths and weaknesses are is more important than the mark.  However, I doubt that many students agree with this and the marks clearly are high stakes for many students.

This means that there is often a tendency to mark quite generously - this is true of most lecturers at most institutions it would seem.  Finlayson makes an interesting point about this and the way it could lead to "grade inflation" when she writes:

"But even if it were possible to return to the good old days when only the top 10 per cent got firsts (and a similar proportion of the population went to university), why do it? To make it easier for Deloitte and Accenture to take their pick? Alternatively, you might make life a little easier for some young people who have been screwed over since before they were born. Whose side are you on?"

I am definitely on the latter side in principle but, of course, standards are important.  I would want the young people that follow to be treated by good doctors, taught by good teachers, served by good public servants etc.

She also refers to students asking what their markers want from their work.  I can empathise with them but also the teachers who often might not have a clear idea and willing to be open minded about what is good work.  I know that very good work from students sometimes surprises me with new insights and this is where marking can be magical (and I hope my responses to the work let my students realise that it is magical when it occurs).


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Patrick Andrews

Reflections on first marking of the academic year

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I have just finished marking first assignments for LB170 and L161.  As I have two groups for both courses at the moment (I am covering for one L161 course), it has been a busy time.  As usual, there is a great variety but it seems some students have underestimated the amount of work they needed to do and wrote answers that they could have written without studying the courses.  I hope that my feedback will encourage them to make use of what they are studying in their future assignments (and presumably this is a major reason why they have assignments so early in the course.

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