Friday, February 29, 2008

The Whining Weak

For some reason, this was a whining week for me. Maybe it's because it's the second last week of term and everything has culminated in people being extra whiny. But the nerve of some of these students just makes me wonder how they're going to survive in life later. I shall explain what I mean by this.

Yesterday, I decided to be generous and help a couple of students. They had some trouble with a C++ programme that was supposed to be finished by 11am. I agreed to stay back after lunch to mark them up. One of the students actually had the nerve to ask me to mark her off even though she couldn't complete the task. Incidentally, this was for standard credit, meaning that they get a fixed mark as long as they complete their work, regardless of quality. So, most students tend to assume that they deserve credit just for turning up.

Instead, I gave her two options: as long as she finishes the task, I don't mind marking her up at another time, or she could get no marks. I was fully expecting her to either spend more time or study the work of a friend. Instead, she told me that she was not interested in spending any more time on the work as she had already spent enough time on it. She asked me if there was someone else (higher up) that she could speak to. So, I gave her the course leader's email.

Today, I had another student come up to me to ask for additional marks on his 3rd year lab report. He said that he understands that I am a very proficient marker but he feels that he deserves a higher mark. That was euphemism for being a strict marker. But, I had a second look at it and decided that although there was nothing wrong with his report, there was nothing special about it either. That is why I gave him a square 2.I for his report. He kept harping about how well the report was presented, with neat diagrams and colours. The trouble is that I actually care about content. So, I stayed with my original decision.

It's not like I give the students random marks. But earlier in the week, somebody decided to take his/her failure to secure high marks to the authorities with regards to a 3rd year lab report. So, I was asked to list down my marking criteria. Except for the extra paper work, it wasn't a problem. In fact, the other marker and I had agreed upon the specific criteria (on paper) at the beginning of term, in order to make our marking fair. So, it was just a matter of reproducing the criteria list.

Coincidentally, at about the same time last year, I had a marking review of 2nd year lab reports because some students had complained. I am probably the only marker who makes students redo the entire lab reports when their reports are crap. In fact, I usually give every such student the choice of either failing or rewriting their reports. And just like last year, they did some statistical analysis to find that the spread of marks was proper. So, I am twice vindicated now. In fact, my manager tells me that he doesn't expect to hear any more of it.

Over the years, I have built a reputation in the department as a proficient marker. That might be why I'm always asked to do marking. But it also gives me a lighter work load. The other marker gets more than double the marking workload than me because the silly students are under the misconception that he is less proficient than I and they all flock to his marking session. Unfortunately, they soon find out that we're both equally proficient in marking.

I am not an evil bastard who is out to fail undergrads to compensate for my own failings. I am merely someone who does not compromise on basic standards. The students merely need to get their act together to score. I reward people with high marks when they do well. It isn't too difficult to do when all the necessary answers are already provided to them in their hand outs.

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