The blog

Encouraging marking standardisation

7th June 2019 | Mike Williams

Intro

How can performance data be comparable if different teachers are marking assessments and those assessments require a degree of subjectivity? With difficulty!

Obviously, you would hope there would be an element of consistency because of the associated guidelines, mark schemes and experience of the teacher. But in a world where performance is so closely monitored and a single grade point can make or break a university application, consistency and accuracy of marking really is important.

Let me say to begin with, there is no magic bullet that will suddenly make all your teachers mark the same bit of work with the same grade. In fact, is that what you really want? Especially for more creative subjects, peoples reaction to work can genuinely differ wildly, and with good reason. But… you can’t deny a level of standardisation and consistency is required to ensure a fairness and equality in your grade giving. So, what can your school do to encourage marking consistency?

1. Clarity of past grades

Having the ability to see grades and details (who marked the assessment, when was it taken etc.) of past assessments allows you to compare them with the grades that you are issuing. If they are differing from past grades for similar tests, you can question why that is. It may be that the previous test was marked to leniently, or perhaps there has been a fall in student performance. Either way, having this clarity allows you to ask these questions and begin exploring the answers.

2. Accessibility to mark schemes and guidelines

This one seems obvious, but after marking the same paper over and over, whether that be in a week or over several years, it can be easy to lose track of the mark scheme and guidelines. As well as this, they are often updated, so having a central repository to refer to can help hugely.

3. Sharing grading responsibility between teachers, classes and years

Teachers that grade the same students, the same exams and the same standard of work can become set in their ways. While experience is good, it can lead to neglecting updates in mark schemes or present biases towards students that they have taught themselves.

4. Regular discussion on performance and grading

Holding departmental meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to marking can be hugely beneficial. Even running through an example assessment to ensure people’s perspectives are largely inline can save the requirement for a turbulent marking review further down the line.

5. Sampling marking

Although marking someone else's work that has already been marked does constitute a duplication of work, it can actually save time in the long run. Like with the above point, ensuring marking is inline for just a couple of assessments can give you significant assurance the marking is consistent on a broader scale.

6. Take it online

Marking through an online system allows for quicker comparison of markers, distribution of samples and updates to mark schemes. It also makes the submission of marks a lot quicker and potentially cheaper.

7. Training

Training sessions on how to mark sound like hard work, there’s no two ways about it. But walking through examples of past work can actually be surprisingly interesting and informative at the same time. Running online training sessions can make these sessions a lot more accessible to teachers and markers and make it easy to keep track of who is up to date with their training!

In essence, the grading environment in your school should encourage comparability, connectivity and clarity. The three c’s, central to the Vizi philosophy.

As we know, there is no way of creating a consistent, serene marking environment, but there can be steps taken to encourage it. Ultimately, having consistency in your marking makes your data more powerful and the information you derive from it more meaningful.

Mike

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