Our semester is now 2/3 over, so we’ve still a ways to go. Last week students got an exam on the first 7 lectures, in which we covered mostly basic cognition / cognitive psychology. To be beforehand with the world (and because I want to do some quick and dirty experiment next week) I decided to get on top of the exams straight away and get them corrected. So far, my strategy consists of reading all answers to the questions, to check how students interpreted my questions. After adapting the answer key to be consistent, I start grading the exams. It’s probably a good thing that we only have about 60 students, because this might not be sustainable otherwise. I’ve managed to grade the whole thing in one day though (there were very few people around, and no meetings).

After checking the frequenties of my grades, it looks as though 50% is average or above average, so that’s quite good. At least my questions managed to discriminate between people who had no clue and people who did! Of course, my grades are only 40% of the whole exam, so it’s possible that their grades can still go up (or down) but that depends on how my co-teacher is grading. We’ll also check correlations, although last year we graded people suprisingly similarly. We see eye to eye on a lot of issues, which is a very good thing in this case.

Grading exams last year, and dealing with essays this year has left me a lot less nervous about the whole process. Partially because I’ve accepted that not everybody (i.e. students) is going to like me, and so be it. I’m not here to be liked by everybody, although it tends to make the process of teaching easier. Partially there’s also experience now, and how to deal when a student thinks their grade is unfair. I don’t know how much / many complaints there will be, but it is always interesting and enlightening to see who shows up and who doesn’t.

When teaching a course that includes students from different years, should one take experience into account? Judging from the article FSP referred to, the students would probably much prefer this. That way, when grading assignments, second years are only compared to second years. However, they could learn more by being compared to third years. Climb up a level they didn’t consider yet… Not to mention that third years can also learn from second years.

Yes, a year of extra experience can help when the main point of the assignment is to write a structured argument, but it is by no means certain that everybody has learned this so far. At least, judging from the handed in assignments, years didn’t make a lot of difference. Paying attention probably counted for a lot more, and rereading the given literature. I don’t know how much effort students put in their assignment, but it is not possible for me to grade them on that anyhow. Of course, it is possible to have put in a lot of effort while not executing the assignment as asked. Is this a lot of effort down the drain? No, learn from it!

Admittedly, none of the students have really complained about being in mixed groups after the course started. Probably it isn’t as difficult as they thought to find time nobody has other commitments, or the topic is interesting enough to keep them coming back for more. At least two students mentioned that so far they find the reading material interesting and fascinating to discuss about so that’s good news for next year. Let’s hope it’s also reflected in the course evaluation, by the way. It would be nice to be able to show 2 positive evaluations from teaching positions.

The most fun part of this course is to see the students grow in experience, knowledge and self-confidence. It’s good to know that I can realise that!