Why I Love (and Hate) Marking Tests

I just finished marking 100 biology tests for my Pre-Health Science (College-Path) students. I feel like I’ve done nothing but write in red pen for 3 days straight. Now I’m exhausted, and filled with conflicting feelings.

There is a part of me that actually enjoys marking. I get to share some success with my students when they do well. I can see some progression in their learning, and compare the detail of their scientific explanations over the duration of the course. Most importantly, though, is that I can collect feedback from most of the students I teach, and I can show my students that I value their opinions.

At the end of every first test, I award 1 bonus mark for answering 2 questions.

  1. Is there something about the course that you like? Maybe something that has been working well for your learning style?
  2. Is there something about the course that you dislike? Maybe something that hasn’t worked well for your learning style?

There are no wrong answers. I try to always encourage honesty, yet some students still leave the spaces blank.

I hate marking, not because of the time it takes, but because it hurts to share in students’ failures too. I know my students aren’t mind readers, so I try to stress the important topics every day we are together. If someone misses a 3-hour class, however, it can be challenging to cover an entire textbook chapter completely on ones own. I hate to see an entirely blank question, because I wonder if maybe I missed a vital learning opportunity.

If more than 80% of my class gets a multiple choice question wrong, I deduct that mark from the total. This way I can acknowledge the students who did get it correct (with another bonus mark) and not take away from the vast majority of my class. If 80% of my students didn’t understand, I can’t help but feel like that’s my fault.

I love hearing from other educators, especially about tests. Do you have anything special you do with your tests?

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