Many of my colleagues think I’m mad – I enjoy marking. I’m in the thick of it right now. Yes, it can become tiring and one can feel under pressure but I do feel a certain amount of excitement as I open each assignment. Have they learnt what I wanted them to learn? Will I find out something new about writing processes? Will I come across a piece of prose that I’d want to publish?
I was very fortunate last Saturday: the very last piece I marked was astounding. I recommended to the student straight away that she should send it out for publication.
Every piece of work I get is different. Students write stories, scripts, poetry, biography, autobiography and excerpts from novels. They accompany them with reflective self-assessments, writers’ reflections, annotated bibliographies and drafts. One module is a hybrid English Literature / Creative Writing. They all produce a close reading of a text of their choice for the first assignment. The second assignment is a creative piece or a critical essay. Even for the critical essay students choose their own texts to critique and it’s rare for students to take the same angle on the same text.
Often, though, they’re making the same sorts of mistakes and sometimes you can feel that you are repeating yourself. It’s good that Turnitin provides drag and drop comments. Punctuation, formatting, show don’t tell, run-on sentences, overwriting, point of view – and many others- all have ready-made comments. Texts become heavily annotated and we have time and space for individual, more personalised comments.
Even if we are repeating ourselves, as we’re marking eight criteria, there are so many different combinations of what is good and what is less good that it doesn’t actually become boring.
I particularly enjoy marking these. Students reflect on their writing process, how they’ve created the piece they’re submitting and which other authors have influenced them. We ask for slightly different extra details on each module. On our final year core module we’ve asked them to write about their journey as a writer to date. Many of these reflections have been exciting, rewarding and very informative. Sometimes they present them in a rather quirky way. Two in the latest batch have addressed one of their characters. These were two very effective reflections.
Young writers progressing
We mark anonymously but often we recognize whose work we’re marking. It always amazes me when I mark final year work how much our students have come on since they were in the first year. I’m currently marking first years and they’re a little unpolished compared with the third years. I wonder how much they’ll come on in the next three years?