Two years back I got a tenure-track job. Yes, a wish come true and a difficult milestone was accomplished.
Like most newbies, I thought I would spend most of my time on teaching and research.
Two years in and the summer to boot as well, I am doing administrative work day in and day out.
I hate it. I stress over it.
I have no choice as the department is small…just 7 faculty members to see to two undergraduate programmes, two MSc programmes and our research students.
I hate the administrative work that goes with courses. When you are an examiner responsible for three courses in the summer and seven courses in the semester, hating the administrative work eventually derails you.
This summer however, I got the lecturers of the courses to submit marked scripts and marksheets on time, at least a few days before our examiners’ meeting. I had sufficient time to review each script and got a second pair of eyes to review as well. Some errors were found and lecturers had to make the changes. In one sitting I wrote the reports for the exams. After the examiners’ meeting I completed my own second examiner duties and then uploaded all marks onto our online system. In all, a less stressful post-examination period.
So what helped?
Working with new lecturers
Each course had new lecturers. Newbies aim to please. I know I do too. So if you set a deadline to submit scripts, they keep to it.
Working with other examiners who do their job
The second examiners did their job in reviewing the scripts and marksheets. You are less stressed about errors when the other examiner does their job. Students are concerned about their grades and most know how they perform on an exam. They will query any perceived discrepancy. You waste time in dealing with such discrepancies. So make sure your scripts and mark sheets are error free as far as possible. In addition, department heads and the dean will note those courses that have recurring issues.
Batch your work
- Scripts for all courses were reviewed together. I did my review and fixed the submitted marksheets. Then I passed these on to the second examiner.
- As I waited on second examiners, I wrote the examination reports. Thankfully, we have a template.
- Since all of my courses were second examined around the same time, I was able to upload marks for the courses one after the other.
Follow the department’s norms
Previously, the description of the course and narrative was a pain to fill in. Last semester I noted that the senior faculty members don’t put in a narrative and only filled in the statistics, so I followed suit. Examiner’s meeting came and went and no one commented on the narrative. So I continued the practice of filling in only the statistics and verbally discussing student performance.
Performing my second examination duties for late examiners after I got my main work done
There will be examiners who are late in giving you scripts to second examine. If you know who they are you can plan to get on with your primary examination duties, get those out of the way, and then deal with the secondary examination duties. Also, If you know these first examiners are going to be late then you will not need to fret. Lateness could be due to several issues not only with procrastination and it is in students’ best interest that the primary examiner does his job of ensuring quality of marking by the lecturer teaching the course.
Be proactive – Show up and Speak up
Some first examiners may try to delay and deliberately put you in trouble with the department head by saying that you were nowhere to be found to be given the scripts to second examine. Be proactive with examination duties and do not wait on primary examiners. Speak with the examiners who you are working with on where they are at in the process. If you are working with a particularly troublesome person, send a short email requesting the scripts. If the other examiner gives you the scripts without responding, send a note to the examiner stating when you will return the scripts.
Learn the examination process
There is a process of everything in a university environment. Examinations are core and all processes related to them should be adhered to. Knowing this process inside out and keeping a checklist of activities that you need to do helps with keeping the movement going in the right direction. Keeping a checklist and knowing the work flow will give you a peace of mind.
Complete the process
Lodge all documents with the appropriate personnel and complete the process. While our system is an online one, we still have to submit hard copies to the department and to our examinations section. The last act of filing a copy in my personal system is the end of the process. Completing the loop within the examination period will give you closure.
Think through the factors above that help with having a less stressful time with the administrative work related to exams. Which ones are within your control? Is there an institution-wide examination process? Do you foresee bottlenecks in the process? What is the best way to overcome the bottlenecks? How can you batch your work?