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Streamlining marking

The seven habits of highly efficient markers.

To cope with the many demands marking places on your time and energy requires some forward planning and preparation. It begins with setting fixed dates for submitting and returning assignments. This includes allocating fixed times in your diary for marking and not allowing other things to impinge in that time. Below are some suggestions to help you manage yourself to meet these priorities.

Habit 1: Reduce assessment load

Over-assessment contributes to the markers workload without increasing our understanding of the student’s abilities. UTS assessment policy recommends 3 assignments as the optimum level of workload and feedback to the students for most subjects. Setting assessment less frequently involves difficult decisions on what to assess, while still ensuring that the workload is uniform across different subjects. The goal would be to have fewer or shorter but more tightly focused assignments spread over the semester. The level of importance for each assignment should match the weighting in the subject. The assessment load can be reduced by sampling from a range of student work, telling the students only some assignments will be marked thoroughly and it is their responsibility to select their best three.

Habit 2: Provide Model answers

Creating model answers involves more time in the preparation, briefing and clarifying objectives and criteria at the start of a subject with the intention of saving time in the marking later on. Students who are aware of what is expected on them will have less problems and will be able to work more independently on their assignments. With details of the kind of assignments that meet the subject’s assessment criteria there will be less misdirected work and less time required for providing students with detailed feedback.

Habit 3: Use marking guides

By providing information on how the marks will be allocated, marking guides improve consistency and strengthen marker reliability. They detail the content and skills being assessed and the weighting between the two. Success of the scheme depends on clarity of the objectives and designing assignments to meet these objectives (Heywood, 1989) Marking guides work best when the problem only has a limited number of procedures. Special cases that fall outside of the model answers are then assessed separately. The key to a good marking guide is to keep the criteria simple, as detailed lists are time consuming for markers to use.

Habit 4: Streamline feedback procedures

Standardising repetitive tasks can make some marking more efficient. Having the same criteria for all essays, for example, will increase the consistency of the students work. Students value detailed individual feedback but accept checklists and global feedback as necessary in large classes. Checklists incorporating assessment criteria can save time by focussing comments on key areas. A number of lecturers use a variation of minimal marking in which a common set of abbreviations are used when marking assignments. Global feedback involves an in-class discussion of the features of the best and worst assignments.

Habit 5: Assess several outcomes within one task

Fewer but bigger assignments mean that you mark less often, even though each individual assignment can be time consuming to mark. Using the same assignment to assess more than one learning outcome also makes the assignment more like the problems students will experience in their professional situations.

Habit 6: Delegate the marking

Not all assignments need to be assessed by the lecturer. Students can perform a variety of assessment tasks such as reviewing their work before submitting it. With clear criteria, some guidance and practice students can assess each other’s work particularly in cases such as seminar presentations or group contributions.

Habit 7: choose sources, methods and instruments that are less time intensive

Clearly portfolios take longer than essays and essays take longer than MCQs. Objective tests like multiple choice questions can be marked by computer software or by students in class. Other forms of assessment, like group presentations and posters can be marked in class providing speedy feedback and an immediate mark for students.