Saturday, November 7, 2009

Working on Weekends: Effort vs Reward

I often come to uni on my weekends to get extra bits of work done. Sitting here in my office on weekends might be kinda sad from a social point of view. Maybe sadder still is that I actually enjoy being at uni at least 6 days a week.

I’m determined this weekend to finish revisions on a manuscript that my collaborators and I are re-submitting on Thursday. This morning when I arrived at my desk, however, I remembered the first year statistics assignments that I still have to mark. Like a lot of other postgrads, I subsidise my scholarship by tutoring statistics classes during semester, which is a heck of a lot of fun… until I have to mark all the assignments instead of working on my own research.

It’s a tough job to work out how to balance how much feedback to give the students versus how much time I spend per assignment. The first two assignments took me an hour each to mark, and now that I’ve gone through about 15, they’re taking me closer to half an hour each. (To put that into some perspective, I roughly get paid for fifteen minutes per assignment, which is extremely unrealistic.)

The amount of feedback I have been giving really comes down to how well the student has done. Really good assignments take very little time to mark, and require very little feedback on my part. Really bad assignments take very little time to mark - I don’t give them much feedback either. Instead, at the bottom of the marking page I write “Come and see me if you would like to discuss your mark”, knowing most students who get the really bad marks won’t read that far down the marking page, if they bother looking at it at all.

I tend to give the students who perform around the middle the most amount of feedback. My guess is a lot of these students have put in as much effort as the top-performing students, but struggle to understand the key concepts. I think these students need to have their errors made very obvious to them, but they also need to be encouraged to keep trying has hard as they did. After all, the research shows that we should reward effort rather than grades.

Unfortunately, when it comes to re-submitting our manuscript next week, the peer-review process cares less about the effort we put in, and more about the scientific clarity of the research as a whole. Worst-case scenario, if the manuscript gets rejected, I hope it’s at least in the mid-range so I’ll get lots of feedback!

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1 comment:

  1. welldone, keep up the good work