Remarking

Everytime someone marks someone else, there’s someone ready to jump out and complain that it was done unfairly. That they deserve more marks because of x, y and z. Remarking haunts TA’s (because it means your work is never done) as well as students (maybe I can get that extra mark and push my grade to an A).

There are two very different ways to look at remarking as a grad student – from the point of view of a TA and from that as a student. Below I’ll discuss ways to deal with both and give (hopefully) a few insights that you may not have known about before hand.

Student:

When you get back an assignment and you didn’t do as well as you thought you should do, don’t immediately think “the TA is unfair.” The TA read and marked all of the assignments and saw the work done by everybody. They actually have a much better idea of where you sit among everyone in the class than you do. They’ve seen it. So, don’t let your gut reaction be “I think I did better than everyone else and deserve extra marks.” And please, please, please, don’t write your email like that. It won’t make your TA happy and will most likely result in the TA hardly looking over your work and agreeing with their original mark.

Realize when you hand something back in to be remarked, it’s just as likely for your mark to go down as it is to go up or to stay the same. All three of these are valid outcomes. Make sure you are VERY confident that your mark should go up before re-submitting. If you’re not confident that a remark is going to go in your favor, ask the TA if you can either discuss the paper with them or if they would be willing to give you some extra feedback. Remember, how you phrase things goes a long way towards whether or not the TA (or professor) will be on your side (see how to email a professor). Most TA’s are happy to help. They don’t want to see people fail. They want to think they’re having a positive impact on the class. Being able to help you out, is a chance to get that feeling.

Don’t just hand it back in and say I disagree. Explain what you disagree with. Tell the TA where you think you lost points unfairly. “I only got 2/3 for motivation, but I have two paragraphs that go into detailed motivation. It’s not clear to me what I’m missing to have lost that 1 mark.” will go much farther than “I want it remarked.”

Always hand back in an assignment that was miscounted. If the assignment handed to you says 10/15 and you count 11 marks, tell them and get them to re-record it. TA’s are perfect. They aren’t out to get you, and they will update the mark.

TAs:

It’s really weird as a TA the first time you get asked to mark something. You may or may not be given a marking guide. You’ve probably never seen the type of work students are willing to hand in (which can be very shocking on its own). You’ll have a stack of papers, an overwhelmed look and a hurry to get it done. You don’t want to be that TA that takes forever to get assignments back, do you?

Set a deadline – Once the assignments have been handed back, be very clear to the students that if they have a problem with their mark that they need to discuss it with you by x date. Get the professors support on this. I like to give a week. A week is plenty of time to talk to friends, compare results, add up the score, and make a decision.

Ask for an explanation – Tell the students that they need to give you a reason for the remark. And the reason needs to be more than “I thought I should have done better.” The more detailed you are of what kind of detail you expect the better the return. Even better, tell them to submit this in writing. This means that a) you have something to refer to when you look over the assignment and b) you don’t have to listen to the student debate every single mark on their paper for an hour (yes, this happens, and someone are too dense, oblivious or don’t care when you keep telling them you’re busy and need to go).

Remember that (most likely) no one but you has seen every assignment. You’re the most qualified to answer the question of whether the mark was fair. Don’t let the student’s whining or sobbing or what not sway you. The mark can go up, down, or stay the same. All three of these should be considered valid options. Did you mark this paper early when you still had hope? Or at the end when you had lost all hope and started just giving marks?

Remarking is hard – you (most likely) no longer have the stack of assignments to turn to and compare assignments to see if you’re still on the right track. When remarking an assignment, it’s best if you don’t remember the mark that you gave them originally. If possible, wait a day or so, and then look at the assignment without looking at the marks. Depending on how you mark, this can be difficult.

Try to give extra feedback. If a student wants their paper remarked, they probably found it unclear why they got the mark they did. In this case, try to provide more feedback through comments explaining where they lots marks and why. Also, make sure to point out things done well so that they realize that you are noticing that what the student did right instead of just focusing on what they did wrong.

Most of all, just believe in yourself. Sure, you’ll make a mistake or too, you are human. But learn from them, improve your methods and move on. Find what works for you.

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