Marking as emotional labour: A discussion of the affective impact of assessment feedback on enabling educators

Caroline Henderson-Brooks


Assessment feedback is increasingly a central part of pedagogy, with the academic benefits and affectual impact on students well described in scholarly literature. There is, however, little scholarly recognition of the affectual impact on markers; for this, one must turn to more general writing, for example, personal teacher blogs. To explore the issue from a scholarly perspective, this paper discusses the affective impact of marking on enabling educators; who are deeply committed to the personal journeys of their students and for whom marking often involves careful and extensive feedback on assignments intended to drive student learning and help them improve their academic skills in preparation for undergraduate studies. This paper introduces an autoethnographic reflection on the marking experiences of one enabling educator. This reflection is then mapped to categories of identified student emotions to provide an insight into the emotional labour of marking itself, separate to the general labour of teaching and supporting students in widening participation. It shows that marking is more than an academic task which has emotional impacts on students (both positive and negative), but a task that also emotionally impacts markers themselves. By making this emotional labour visible within a ‘pedagogy of care’, we can continue to identify ways to support enabling educators and address workload policy for this central dimension of academic work.


enabling programs; higher education; student preparation; widening participation; assessment feedback

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Banner image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), movement score 01 (detail): oil stick and acrylic on paper. Photograph by Kira Jovanovski. Cover image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), grunt_iteration 02 in the boughs and stamped: installation in University Gallery. Photograph by Jedidiah Cranfield. (c) the artist.





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