June 5th, 2018

Making the Grading Process More Transparent

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students receiving exam results

College teachers are always on the lookout for ways to help students better understand why their paper, essay answer, or project earned a particular grade. Many students aren’t objective assessors of their own work, especially when there’s a grade involved, and others can’t seem to understand how the criteria the instructor used applies to their work.

As the author Matthew Bamber notes, grading is not a transparent process to students, even if they have been given the criteria or rubric beforehand. He devised an exercise for his master’s-level accounting and finance students that they found “eye-opening.” In the UK, students “sit” for lengthy exams—in this case, a three-hour, closed-book essay test. In the exercise, students began by answering one lengthy essay question. When finished, they were given a suggested answer to the question (it contained a problem they had to solve and a written analysis), a marking guide, and a set of grade descriptors. Then they were given an anonymous answer to the same question and told to grade it using the materials provided. After having completed that step, students were given a teacher-graded copy of the anonymous answer. The exercise concluded with students being told to grade their answer to the question.

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