Academic common room
Marking essays - embarrassed to ask!
CommonFishDiseases · 29/12/2017 11:06
I'm embarrassed to ask in real life but how do you decide what exact percentage to give a student e.g. within the 2:1 range of 60-69? I'm marking undergrad essays for the first time and I can see which are 1st or 2:1 etc, but can't decide which exact mark it should be. We are given a marking criteria sheet for each general grade.
RicottaPancakes · 29/12/2017 11:09
I don't know, but It's a bit concerning that they haven't given you enough training to now this. Hope someone else can help.
Callamia · 29/12/2017 11:14
Where’s your marking guide? Or rubric?
It should be available to students, so you should definitely have one.
Contact the module coordinator before you waste your time. And tell the head of learning and teaching in your department that you’ve not been appropriately trained. It’s not your fault, but it’s terrible practice.
TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross · 29/12/2017 11:15
I’m a secondary school teacher and an examiner so no experience of undergrad level but I would think the principle is the same: once I’ve worked out which band to place them in, I use the criteria for that band to work out to what extent they’ve fulfilled it - so do they just squeak in, or are they doing everything in the band confidently.
My principal examiner says: everything in the band below plus a little bit more puts them at the bottom of the next band up, and then work up from there. If you think something is worth a 2:1, what is stopping you giving it a first? And how much is that aspect lacking? Just a bit - so top 2:1? Or to a greater extent - so mid 2:1?
As you get more experienced, you do just start to “feel” it, if that’s any comfort!
CommonFishDiseases · 29/12/2017 17:21
Thanks all for your responses. I have asked for a more detailed marking matrix (if it exists!) and as LivingBoy says, am starting to get a "feel" of the grades now. I think I will have to also book myself onto some training on this aspect of teaching... but assume that will have to be on my own initiative.
ifigoup · 29/12/2017 17:27
OP, I'm really concerned that you haven't been properly resourced for this aspect of your role. At my institution an inexperienced marker (which it sounds as though you are - this is not a criticism and we all had to start somewhere!) would have all their pieces second marked by a more experienced marker to ensure parity. As part of the discussion with that second marker where you reconcile marks, it should become clearer why a given piece deserved a 67 rather than a 65, say. As part of module review, the module convener would also be expected to show how QA was managed with an inexperienced marker.
In the meantime, does your university not have a generic scheme applicable across all subjects?
Callamia · 29/12/2017 18:57
Ifigroup, this is also my experience. We’d at the least, do some round table marking for calibration. Then scripts are moderated (percentage per marker) by module coordinator.
The module coordinator needs to step up here.
CommonFishDiseases · 29/12/2017 19:05
Thank you again for your advice. I am a new (part time) PhD student and so haven't had time to seek out training on this. I have been given a module tutor position and 40+ essays to mark over Christmas holidays. I think I will definitely have to press the Module Coordinator for more guidance then.
geekaMaxima · 29/12/2017 19:08
OP - some good advice already and don't worry. It's pretty common to flounder with a marking scale at first and it's good you're developing a feel as you go. Once the batch is finished, it's fine to go back and adjust some of the early grades that were given before you had established the baselines. And harass the module coordinator as much as you need! I prefer getting questions early in the process than a full batch of scripts that have been marked incorrectly.
It's also important to know if you don't already:
(1) Whether your department / institution awards discontinuous grades (e.g., 2:1 = 62, 65, 68) rather than continuous (e.g., 2:1 = 60, 61, 62, 63, ...). You can adopt this method yourself even if it's not official as it makes marking a lot easier when there are fewer degrees of freedom.
(2) What the mean and standard deviation of marks for the module was in previous years (or if it's a new course, for a similar module). If you're lucky, there might even be official guidelines on the expected marks. When you're done marking, you can then check whether your distribution of marks is close to the expected and seek further advice if it's not.
CommonFishDiseases · 29/12/2017 19:15
Geeka, the MC did mention there should be "a couple of Firsts, a couple of Thirds, and most inbetween" but that's about it!
I'm worried I'm marking a bit harshly so far, most of them include the key points in some form but their writing style and referencing is mostly poor. Hopefully this will develop over time though as it is one of their first essays.
I have editing experience and am used to picking over every detail in a text so I don't think that helps!
Bellamuerte · 29/12/2017 21:04
I was told not to mark within two points of a grade boundary otherwise students will get upset that they're only one mark away from a higher grade and are likely to ask for their work to be re-marked in the hope of getting that extra point. So an excellent 2:1 which is definitely not a 1st would get a maximum of 67%. Something which just scrapes a 2:1 would be around 61%. And a solid 2:1 would score somewhere in the middle around 64%.
I agree with what your MC said about there being a couple of 1st/3rd and most of them in between. Sometimes you start marking and after you've done a few you realise you've been too lenient/harsh because the other essays are much worse/better. So you have to downgrade/upgrade some of your earlier marking in order to achieve the required distribution of 1st/2nd/3rd (which is why you should mark the final grade with post-its until you've done the whole lot in case you need to adjust some grades). But it is unfair because you end up marking students against the rest of the class instead of against a defined marking scale. An excellent 2:1 might have been awarded a 1st if the rest of the class was of a lower standard, and that shouldn't really be happening! But unfortunately universities demand that you produce the correct distribution of 1st/2nd/3rd, whether it's fair or not.
Callamia · 29/12/2017 21:38
Bellamuerte, do you make on a curve? Because I definitely don’t mark to any distribution. As long as I can justify my grades to our internal and external examiners, then all is well. I often give quite high marks for my third year module coursework, because the quality is genuinely very good. The curve is skewed, but it’s justifiable.
purplepandas · 29/12/2017 21:45
We don't mark to a distribution either although we often see a slightly skewed one at PG level (more 2.1s and higher rather than 2.2s and 3rds or PG equivalent). Is there a specific rubric as others have said? We have one for all marks within each grade boundary with specific criteria for each. We mark in 3 point increments though so easier (62, 65, 68 etc). This is of course available to students. I would check the VLE if you have one for these documents and.or module handbook.
I agree with previous posters that you should have more support with this than you have. I agree that going back to the module coordinator is the best thing to do. Consistency and transparency is important in marking.
FaFoutis · 29/12/2017 21:53
It takes time to get your eye in with marking so don't panic if you have only done a few.
I vaguely remember piling up essays according to which grade boundary they were in, then reading through again to differentiate between them in order to give percentages. That takes time but it works.
LRDtheFeministDragon · 30/12/2017 16:47
Why not email a couple of friendly slightly senior people? I've looked at marking for new tutors and I asked for reassurance from older peers when I was starting out. Yes, you ought to get more training and yes, it'd be nice if you had a second marker, but if you've a looming deadline it'll probably be much quicker and simpler just to ask someone else!
CommonFishDiseases · 30/12/2017 17:31
Thank you all this is very useful advice. Yes Fafoutis that is the approach I'm taking! The MC has said he wants the marking criteria to be deliberately vague to allow us flexibility...
ifigoup · 01/01/2018 10:52
That is very poor practice on the part of the MC, not least because the students should have had clear guidelines about what's expected of them and how ILOs line up with the mark scheme.
CommonFishDiseases · 06/01/2018 17:55
Ok, the 40+ essays are marked! Marks written on a top sheet rather than on the actual essays (as MC requested) so they could be amended after we - the teaching team - meet together. 6 to be moderated by MC (I'm giving him the 3 highest and 3 lowest scores). I've tried to give specific, fairly detailed feedback, not just generic phrases. I just hope I have done enough and can justify my marks. Have told MC I will seek out some training in this area.
geekaMaxima · 06/01/2018 19:07
OP, it might be a good idea to give the MC a typical example from each grade band plus some selected others (e.g., a typical 1st, 2.1, 2.2, etc. plus any fails or any borderlines you're not sure about). It's much easier to moderate marks this way than just seeing the extremes of a distribution.
(Of course if your MC has asked for the extremes then give them that!).
CommonFishDiseases · 24/01/2018 19:05
So... the essay marks have been checked and a selection have been moderated - the MC is happy with my marking (grades given were on a par with those given by him & the other tutor). So all's well that ends well...!
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