Sunday, May 07, 2006

Another sort of word count

Word count: 61,021
TMAs (Tutor Marked Assignments) marked: 2
TMAs sitting in my inbox: 16
TMAs still to be received: 5

Missing TMAs:
Average time to mark TMA: minimum of 90 minutes

Oh lordy, I always knew this period in the course would be the toughest, but I've just done my sums and worked out that for the OU assignments this time, I have to read in excess of 65,000 words of fiction and reflective commentary - and give incisive, carefully worded guidance - over the next 14 days. Well, not even 14 any more. 12.

Oh lordy again. That's a short novel's worth of stuff. It's quite daunting, actually. If I wasn't working in another job, and writing my book to a deadline, and (this is the main issue right now)trying to go through acres of paperwork about the latest house we're trying to buy, then it would feel less overwhelming.

As it is, I am finding it stressful. I want to give each student as much help as possible but, as with any open access course, there's a wide range of abilities and approaches, so I keep having to switch teaching modes.

We also have access to some of the open student forums and there's been quite a lot of negativity about how much involvement tutors are having, which I know is natural but feels disheartening at times (I guess the easiest way to solve that is to stop reading, but actually it's also a useful check, to see how people are finding the course from the 'consumer' point-of-view). I suspect if I was doing the course, I'd have very high expectations too, and I know when I was relying on friends and fellow writers to critique work, I would tend to get very impatient so I see where they're coming from. I studied with the OU, too, and even though it's only 5 years since I graduated, the level of contact seems to have increased tremendously: I don't think I ever spoke or contacted my tutor...It's better that there's more contact, but right now, with my virtual pile of assignments, it does feel a bit of a mountain to climb, especially as all of it is done on computer. I think I will print them off, to reduce the RSI risk - but then there's the planet to think of. What a dilemma!

The positive side of things comes when I come across a fantastic piece of work, a wonderful phrase or a striking observation within an assignment. Or where I have been able to convince a student that it's worth submitting an assignment when they were doubtful - and it turns out to be very worthwhile.

Oh, and the cat keeps misbehaving, in her own personal dirty protest. And the weather's gone grey again. But I have just seen the piece I wrote in eve magazine and that looks really good.

Back to marking now!

Lovely Link of the Day:
Some hardcore critique guidelines from Amy Sterling Casil (she looks quite stern, I think. But fair!). Not ones I am applying to my students' work, but if you're feeling brave, you can try applying them to your own!


Anonymous Kate Hardy said...

Happy publication day (albeit belated - I have my copy and am saving it for the weekend as a carrot to get my book back on trak this week).

Your celebrations sound suitably swish (Italian food and chocolate truffles... oh, yessss...).

Feel your pain on the marking. I find the same when I do critiques for a certain organisation (which is why I'm taking a year out, this year - as it's a whole book each time, it's the best part of a day to do each one). But you are a star so you'll get through it, do your students proud AND keep Book 4 on track.

6:45 am  
Blogger Morning-Loves-It said...

Hi Kate. I hope you don't feel that the discussion about Tutors and particularly Tutor Groups and participation by students and tutors is too personal. I've joined in the discussion and related my own experiences of OU Tutors during my six years as a student. None of my input was meant as negative but hopefully seen as constructive though not always agreed with by others.

I've done courses where the only tutor contact has been my marked and returned TMAs and others using FC online TGs for joint activities and online tutorials.

For me the most valuable contributions by my tutors have been their TMA comments and summaries. A tremendous responsibility on the Tutor's part. Throughout any course I keep these comments and advice in front of me and constantly refer to them as I approach each block and the next TMA. They are very valuable to me and much appreciated.

I think marking creative writing must be harder than marking course work that has right and wrong answers as writing fiction and poetry is so personal to the author.

I am very happy with the way my current tutor comments, points out how maybe things could have been written differently, gently suggesting an alternative, praising the good stuff and giving excellent support and encouragement.

I'm sure your current students feel the same as I do and they are lucky to have a person marking their work who is genuinely concerned about their progress.

I have always been pleased with my OU Tutors whatever subject I've been studying - even when I've had lower marks than I would have liked. I think I learn more from these lower marks than I do from the higher marked ones.

8:47 am  
Blogger Kate said...

Ah, thanks Kate...hope you enjoy it when you get round to it!

Mornev, it's not personal and I probably shouldn't even look, but it's interesting to see what the consumers are feeling. I guess that the marking will vary a lot and I suspect most tutors will have a different way of striking the right balance. I suppose I was also always very much a hands off student so it's interesting to see how others approach it - and it's rewarding as tutor to be able to help people move forward!

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9:27 pm  

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