I always feel guilty when I have totally vegging out days, but I suppose I had had a busy week, both physically and mentally tiring, what with the trip to Port Talbot the previous weekend and then Hay-on-Wye and working some days too. Anyway, yesterday made up for it somewhat. I managed to mark and return about half of the Start Writing Fiction final assignments, washed some clothes in preparation for packing for WorldCon and also went for a brisk 1 hour walk.
Today I'm back in work (with no access to my email!), plenty to do and I also want to sneak in the marking of a few more OU assignments this afternoon because I want them all finished before I go away on Thursday.
The marking has got a lot easier since I a) devised my marking spreadsheet and b) started using Word's Insert text for the comments I find myself repeating over and over again. (These are mostly punctuation and grammar corrections, but I also have ones on POV and adding description.)
Marking stories is not easy. Critiquing one is fine, but then trying to assign a percentage mark to it is far more difficult. When I marked the technology assignments, we had a mark scheme and it was easy enough to look at each part of the answer and decide whether it was right or not. You just can't do that with stories.
Initially I graded the stories holistically. That is I critiqued one and then tried to get an overall feel for the quality, partly by looking at how much green text there was interspersed with the black. I would then stare into space for a bit, wave my hands around vaguely going, "Um... Er... About 75%? Or a bit more? No, not as high as 80%. But it's better than the last one I just marked and I gave that 73% Let's try 77%," and then enter that into the mark recording software. Rinse and repeat. However the marking spreadsheet now enables me to consider one aspect of the assignment and assign it a grade from A-E. For example: has the student followed the instructions correctly and is the story an imaginative take on the specified subjects? or is punctuation, grammar and layout correct?. Then by means of cunningly nested If statements and formulae to weight each aspect appropriately, the letter grade is turned into a percentage mark and then the part marks are totalled to give me an overall score. I think it's making me more consistent. Not that I wasn't consistent before when marking one batch, but I always worried that I wasn't as consistent as I'd like to be between courses because it's difficult to remember what you gave a particular story 3 months ago. It certainly makes the decisions easier by breaking it down into smaller chunks
Of course ideally one wouldn't have to give an exact mark to a story, but as the course is part of the degree programme, it has to be done.