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Lecturer - I have screwed up...

(20 Posts)
dodi1978 Thu 28-Apr-16 10:36:08


I am a HE lecturer in a Humanities Subject. I released some assignment marks yesterday and immediately had a complaint from a student (I had given her a 58). The issue is that the student had seen me in my office hours where she had shown me a draft of a part of the assignment. On quick glance it looked ok, and I told her she was on the right track.
To be honest, I'd completely forgotten about seeing the student (and I also can't remember exactly what I had said). When I marked the essays, I didn't quite feel it was worth more than 58%... so not a bad piece of work, but also not brilliant.

Any advice on what to do? I am so knackered after a long semester (and am pregnant as well), and this really worries me... amongst many other things at work!

MattDillonsPants Thu 28-Apr-16 11:26:57

Tell her that the final piece is only worth 58 and that she was on the right track but then be specific about how she can improve it. I assume she WAS on the right track when you saw the early draft?

I also assume the finished piece was worth only 58?

Booboostwo Thu 28-Apr-16 12:19:43

What does your course handbook say about feedback?

In my discipline we give back a lot of feedback so if I had seen a draft worth a 58% i would have made a few comments on how to improve from that point (doesn't guarantee that the student would make the improvements but that is up to him/her).

If the point of the draft is to give a 'yes on the right track' or 'no, you are off topic/missed out a significant point/utterly unclear' kind of comment, then the feedback you gave is adequate.

dodi1978 Thu 28-Apr-16 13:37:46

Thanks, guys.

I only saw the piece as a print-out (during office hours), and not on paper or as an e-mail attachment, so didn't have much time to really look at it in detail. It was not completed and we did discuss a few ways in taking it forward, which she may have understood.

The point of the meeting was just to generally check whether she was on the right track, and she also asked a few specific questions. which I answered. The way she implemented my suggestions regarding those specific questions wasn't great.

I just wished I had refused to even look at a draft.

To make matters worse, a second student (who I had also seen during office hours) has just complained, saying that she also felt on the right track after our meeting. She has got a 56, I believe. At least in this case, I didn't look at a draft and only judged her 'on trackness' from a conversation.

Oh, I hate academia at the moment!

MarasmeAbsolu Thu 28-Apr-16 19:31:42

it depends if feedback is always given, or a favour.

If it is a favour, reiterate that it was so, and that based on the incomplete work you saw, they seemed on track. They, however, did not lift the essay to a higher level after your conversation. I would also reiterate that the advice you gave is no guarantee of a high mark, and that a 60% is still a pass, just not a very good one.

If feedback is always given - I would make sure that in future it provides guidance on how to improve (written) rather than what to do, specifically.

But I agree with you - it is disheartening when people cannot accept their responsibilities.

museumum Thu 28-Apr-16 19:36:07

What do you mean you saw it "as a print out but not on paper"?

Was it difficult to read? Do you stand by your final mark? If so in my case my course director would ask me for more detailed feedback on what could have been better / was missing etc. and she's expect that to reference the common marking scheme.
"Feedback" on a draft is not a guarantee of a high mark.

jclm Thu 28-Apr-16 19:37:36

Be strong! You have done nothing wrong. It's their tough shit if they can't use your advice productively. I can't believe student sense of entitlement these days...

TeamEponine Thu 28-Apr-16 19:47:15

Oh gosh, that's not a major screw up. I've fucked up far, far worse than that!!!

It doesn't really help for your current situation, but we have a very, very strict "nothing at all can be read" rule. It's fine to discuss approaches and clarify misunderstandings, but no reading of anything in any way, shape or form. We introduced this to avoid exactly the situation you're in now. Is there any way of discussing doing something like this in your department?

In terms of the two students you are dealing with at the moment, be confident in your academic judgement! I've seen essays that were "heading in the right direction" but still managed to fail. Just be clear with them where they went wrong and where to improve, but stick to your guns!

Beckidewinter Thu 28-Apr-16 22:19:02

I'm with everyone else- You really haven't screwed up: the students asked for feedback, you gave it. If the final version was ok but a little lacklustre, that's only a reflection on the student. I am pretty brusque with this sort of thing "the essay did x and y well but you need to focus on (some combination of..) criticality/coherence/ use of sources in your future assignments."

If you have some kind of writing service or Study Skills provision direct them there...My institution offers one to ones through the English Language Centre which are usually really helpful.

Sunshowercap Fri 29-Apr-16 07:48:47

The way she implemented my suggestions regarding those specific questions wasn't great

And there you have it. You have NOT cocked up. 58% is a perfectly respectable mark. As long as the student is given some specific feedback about how to improve next time, this is absolutely normal.

My mantra with students is: "Effort does not always equal achievement." We all know that, goodness me, I've experienced it many times!

The process of looking at a draft is a sound pedagogical practice. I never give an idea about either a number or a class mark when I look at a draft. I will say things like:
This is a good start
This is a solid basis for a second draft
This has some good ideas hiding in there, but they need clarifying
This draft is a bit unclear

And so on ...

It's tricky, isn't it? We want to encourage students by giving them constructive feedback, but we also need to be realistic.

I had a case a few years ago when some students pretty much ganged up against a colleague and said they couldn't work with them as they were "rude" and "disrespectful" (that word used by students about staff always makes me snort!) As convenor of this bit core module, I sat in on some teaching (of all tutors in the course, actually) and saw that my colleague gave straightforward, direct but really really good advice. But the students felt (oh they feel so much) that this was "rude". This year the cohort in this course have told me they want us to be less "nice" in our feedback!

I will discuss feedback with students, but marks are untouchable. Have you a process of second marking or moderation?

TeamEponine Fri 29-Apr-16 08:38:15

My mantra with students is: "Effort does not always equal achievement."

Oh, yes! The number of times I've had students complain to me about their mark, and their main reasoning is that they worked really hard on it! The other one is that they really enjoyed it.

Sometimes I really have to repress my response of: Ok, you may have worked hard on something you really enjoyed, but you answered a totally different question to the one that was set, used very few proper sources of evidence, and you really need to proof read! grin

dodi1978 Fri 29-Apr-16 11:17:22


thank you all for your answers - just having your support and knowing that you all feel similar pressures is good!

just an update. I had a chat to our Learning & Teaching coordinator this morning, who also happens to be a moderator for this module. I totally cracked and broke down in her office, which I am not proud off.... but I am apparently not the first member of staff crying in her office in the last few weeks!
Anyway, we decided that we'd look at the assignment again in a way that would satisfy the students and and that would help me keep face at the same time. She was also somewhat reassuring as to the pressure I am under... saying that she felt out of her depth too many times when she had small kids, but without the pressure we're under these days for publishing, getting grants in, and having excellent MEQs at the same time.
Given that I was due to teach the class this afternoon, she sent me home for a bit of TLC.... which I am doing now. I feel foolish for cracking, but I think I'll feel a lot better next week.

Now off to my other treat about leaving academia...

jclm Fri 29-Apr-16 12:27:29

Sending hugs x x x

Sunshowercap Fri 29-Apr-16 12:32:59

You really did nothing wrong. Really

purplepandas Fri 29-Apr-16 20:42:33

Agree that you did nothing wrong. Similar issues in our office this week too with a colleague re dissertation issue. Loving "effort does not equal achievement". I may adopt that if okay.

Hope you are doing better op, you have done nothing wrong.

Sunshowercap Fri 29-Apr-16 20:45:16

Plagiarise, plagiarse, Let no-one else's work evade your eyes.

[I made that up]

Dr Lehrer: No you didn't

Sunshowercap Fri 29-Apr-16 20:45:53

By which I mean, adopt that maxim. I think I got it from someone else years ago.

villainousbroodmare Fri 29-Apr-16 20:52:11

You've done nothing wrong. Chin up. smile

dimples76 Fri 29-Apr-16 22:56:12

Please do not beat yourself up. You have not done anything wrong. My personal policy is not to read any drafts (obviously other than dissertations) but some of my colleagues do and we don't have departmental/faculty policy so I am ''the baddie'.

I think getting the moderator to have a look is a very sensible plan. If I am dealing with a particularly bolshy student when I tell them that if they want I'll get it 2nd marked I'll then remind them until the Exam Boards the marks can go up ...and down!

Booboostwo Sat 30-Apr-16 10:37:14

I was really surprised by how stressful academia can be, which is why I am now an ex-academic! I am glad your colleague was understanding and hope you feel calmer about it all.

Just a word of warning depending on what 'look at the assignment again in a way that would satisfy the students' means. In all the unis I have worked in students cannot appeal the grade, they can only appeal the process. If the student is querying the mark then flagging this essay for second marking and possibly bringing it to the attention of the external is all that can be done. Neither you nor the moderator should engage in discussions about changing the mark with the student, other than to repeat the second marking/external examining process (which should be written down anyway in the handbook). If the student has concerns with the feedback process, e.g. should have had written feedback or more meetings, he/she should meet with the course director or degree director who should clarify to the student what is expected from feedback and take any action if necessary. If the student has concerns with the quality of the feedback then he/she should take this up with the course director or degree director.

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