Questions of anonymous marking

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We still don’t have anonymous marking, and I certainly find it wrong in a world where we are increasingly giving feed-forward (and therefore would know whose piece of work it is), and are looking for students to provide personalised assignments using online tools such as blogs – which means we HAVE to know who they are:

In recent years, the practice of “blind marking” students’ written work has become almost universal in UK universities. Why? This is because research indicates that some examiners give higher or lower marks to students they know, or whose sex or race they know, than they would if they did not know whose work they were marking. This is obviously unfair and damaging to the career prospects of students who are marked down. So university administrations have taken action by depriving examiners of the information leading to the bias, and insisting that scripts are anonymised before being assessed. But this strategy is misguided: it does not address the real source of the problem and it seriously damages the educational culture.

When I got my first job as an academic in the late 1960s, assessment was a largely intuitive process, in which academics were hardly more articulate about the criteria they were applying than chicken-sexers, and students were entirely in the dark as to what they needed to do to get good marks. I well remember examiners’ meetings in which colleagues would say things like: “I just sensed from the first paragraph that this candidate has a 2:1-ish sort of mind.” We have come a long way since then, with explicit course specifications and the compulsory training of new teaching staff. Nevertheless, we are still a long way from an ideal world in which students fully understand what is expected of them, and staff assess their work solely on the basis of published criteria rather than on the extraneous characteristics of the individual student. In general, academics have not been good at specifying clear criteria by which written work is to be assessed, or at ensuring that their students internalise these criteria, or at applying them impartially.

In my view, the solution to the problem is not anonymous marking; it is to build on the progress that has already been made towards creating an academic culture in which every teacher takes pride in their professionalism and impartiality, and is respected for it by students and administrators alike. In that culture, students will be treated equally on the basis of their actual performance, and will no more need to be anonymised than patients consulting their doctors, or clients consulting their lawyers.

Read full story… which echoes what I’ve written at the top!

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