More On Marking: Rubrics, Feedback and Team Marking

A recent discussion on end-of-session marking highlighted three things to address to alleviate the workload, for either upcoming or future marking, as well as making marking (or the results thereof) more meaningful:

  • Rubrics
  • Providing and using feedback
  • And marking in teams

  1. Rubrics

Rubrics have been used quite efficiently across Macquarie and the education sector. Now is the time to revisit, reflect and revise the rubric in use. Does the rubric clearly communicate expectations to students and distinguish the different levels of achievements? If you need help or inspiration, the Faculty of Business and Economics (Thank You FBE!) have shared plenty of examples you could draw on.

Alternatively, you can write your own or use a template. Don’t forget to check in with your colleagues and learn from more teaching experienced staff members. Nothing beats peer-to-peer conversation on what works and what doesn’t!

  1. Feedback

Many academics get understandably frustrated investing all this time into providing feedback (particularly, written) that is not accessed or used by students.

You may be surprised to hear that many students DO access feedback. For example, in an undergraduate Accounting unit (Thanks again!) last session 349 out of 572 students accessed their final assignment (a reflection task worth 20 marks) via Turnitin to view their feedback within a month of their marks being posted. It may well be that students accessed Turnitin to view their grades (which they can access via Gradebook) but the fact over 60% of students accessed their feedback may signal it’s worth doing feedback well.

A previous Teche post and this paper remind us that feedback should be clear, specific, individualised. A document developed by Macquarie staff How to Give Quality Feedback-Learning Through Dialogue offers a helpful resource. Accessing feedback doesn’t mean that students use it or know how to use it. Thinking of ways students learn to work with feedback and actively use it, in class or on their own, could potentially alleviate some of the frustration experienced by staff and students.

  1. Marking in teams

Surviving and managing marking 60 essays yourself may be hard enough. If you have a large cohort of students and you run a whole army of markers (tutors), this adds a whole new level of complexity. Not only do you have to coordinate the logistics with everyone, you need to consider moderation of marking. This will likely involve several team meetings and conversations. Drawing on Dunn et al. (2014) this Hints and tips guide for sessional Higher Education staff by Charles Darwin University makes some suggestions for different moderation methods (copied below):

  • Markers compare results after marking the same paper. At the beginning of a marking exercise, the coordinator of a marking team chooses a paper at random and, after removing student identification, copies and distributes it to each member of the team. After each person marks the paper according to the agreed marking scheme, they debate the variations in marking (face to face or electronically), finally coming to an agreement about the marking approach.
  • Spot checking at random. The coordinator of a marking team ‘spot-checks’ marked papers in each grade range for consistent application of standards and criteria. If inconsistencies are found, there is discussion within the marking team.
  • Markers compare results after marking different papers. The marking team meets (face to face or electronically) after each has marked a few papers at random to discuss the pros and cons of what they have found in the characteristics of student performances. They debate any differences of emphasis or other variations between markers’ perceptions of levels of quality with reference to their marking scheme or rubric.
  • Moderating borderline results. While overall results for a subject are necessarily moderated when all the assessment tasks are completed, it is also helpful to review borderline cases after they have been marked but before they have been returned to students. If marking is standards based, and descriptions of the characteristics of each grade have been developed, it is possible to compare borderline results with these descriptions and make decisions about where, overall, the student’s performance best matches the grade description.
  • Each marker marks the same question on each paper. A variation in marking practices is where each member of a marking team marks one part (or one question) in each of the papers that are submitted, thereby aiming for consistency within each question. A problem with this approach is that the parts are not put together to assess overall student performance across the range of questions.

The Teche Editorial team wishes all teaching staff at Macquarie an efficient and positive marking sprint towards a well-deserved teaching break!

Thanks to Shaheen Hajira, Natalie Spence, Rebecca Ritchie and Beverley Miles for providing helpful comments and tips.

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