8.50 am. Off to School to retrieve another batch of marking, and to return processed items:
On my return to homebase, I began a review of the MA Vocational Practice teaching experience submissions. These documents are always encouraging to read. I was impressed by the maturity, tact, discernment, and supportiveness that the students demonstrated in their engagement with undergraduates in one-to-one tutorials. As a School, we have a responsibility to train-up the next generation of tutors. The following is an extract from my comments upon one student’s first attempts at teaching. (For my part, it’s like witnessing a birth):
A very good account all round. You dealt with your tutee with a combination of circumspection and authority. As you’ve realised, you have to be in control while at the same time allow the student room to manoeuvre and the freedom to reject ideas that have been offered to them. Your account balanced a very good descriptive outline of the tutee’s work (which I can vouch for) with a sound appraisal of the dynamics of the interaction on both occasions. Your advice was well conceived and appropriate, and your assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, spot on.
At 2.00 pm, at the School, several staff convened to decide the outcome of double marking for the undergraduate art history dissertations. There were a number of excellent submissions among the batch. At home, I completed assessing the one-to-one tutorial experiences of the Vocational Practice group, and entered dates for final board meetings into my calendar. The end is nigh!
After dinner, during my practise session, I centred my attention on one effector pedal — the Zvex, Vexter Series Fuzz Factory. It’s a ‘demon’ of a device, one that takes patient attention and much experimentation to bring to heel. But the effort was rewarded:
Evening. Before returning to the Vocational Practice marking, I responded to a general issue, which was raised by one of my esteemed colleagues, concerning student expectations about marks. Every semester, a few students will feel hard-done by. In most cases, they’ve not received the mark that either they expected or else was comparable to, or better than, one that they’d received last semester in the same subject. Even though, by their reckoning, they’d worked just as hard, if not harder. My conviction is thus:
- Hard work is foundational, but it’s not enough. Indeed, it’s the least of it. (Although, I think some students’ understanding of hard work and my understanding of the same are qualitatively different.) It’s neither the hours that one puts in, nor the energy that one expends but, rather, the prolonged intensity of one’s application over time that reaps the reward.
- ‘I really wanted a first’; ‘I needed a first’, are familiar pleas (to which tutors must turn a deaf ear). But what they really need is an equitable judgement that reflects their true ability. That’s what they should want too.
- What is demanded of a student increases incrementally within the study program, semester by semester, level by level, and year by year. It’s a shifting exchange rate between challenge and achievement. Thus, a mark of, say, 72%, received last semester, may equate to one of only 67-8%, this semester.
- An explanation as to why they’ve received the mark awarded is provided in the assessment tutorial and on the feedback form that follows. That they often don’t recognise the deficits highlighted therein is at the root of their problem. Delusionalism is a stubborn weakness.
- How may they improve their performance? Generically, through developing: a) an increased understanding of the discipline, b) a greater cognisance of what they are determining to achieve, c) a far more critical attitude to their own work, d) a commitment to immersing themselves in those qualitative precedents and practices bearing upon her work, from which they might learn, and e) humility.
No doubt such comments will cause offence to some. But ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend’ (Proverbs 27.6). On with assessing the small-group projects.