Assessment is essential not only to guide the development of individual students but also to monitor and continuously improve the quality of programs, inform prospective students and their parents, and provide evidence of accountability to those who pay our way.

L. F. Gardiner; Redesigning Higher Education: Producing Dramatic Gains in Student Learning; ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 7.

It therefore makes sense that this second blog post, and indeed the second training session, is focused on assessment and feedback. We are increasingly relying on GTAs to mark reports for us; however, this is an area that the GTAs generally feel the least confident in and have the most concern over. Assessment is also the area that the students are most concerned about, and want the most confidence in. This means that we need to make sure that GTAs not only feel confident in marking, but they mark fairly, and provide good feedback.

Therefore a module was created to explore the problems that arise when people have to mark reports and give feedback to students. The module allowed GTAs to look at possible solutions which they could utilise to make sure their marking and feedback is consistent and effective.


How was the session structured?

This module created consisted of four parts. The first three parts were online material;

  • Two self-study guides,
    • Part 1: Assessment
    • Part 2: How to give effective feedback
  • Two reports assigned to the GTA – Submit their completed marksheets and feedback online

The final part was a 2 hour workshop of round table marking which built on the online material.

groups-working-together-completing-the-round-tbale-marking-of-reportsGroups working together to mark the reports during the 2 hour workshop.


How they operated

Each session contained about 30 students divided into 6 groups based on the reports they were assigned. The 2 hour session started with a short discussion of why we assess and potential assessment methods to help get the groups warmed up.

The main part of the session is to mark the two assigned reports as a group. As they had already individually marked these reports, the main activity was actually discussion of why they have given the marks they had and then agreeing on a mark that they all understand to be correct.

The reports were allocated so that each report was marked by two groups, this meant that the marks were revealed and compared between the groups.

Capturing the outcomes from discussion and moderation.jpgDiscussion sheets generated during the session. Good agreement in marks can be seen for the reports apart from the last report, which was due to one group not adding a penalty for exceeding the page limit.

The groups then have to develop feedback for one of their reports based on the points learned in the online material.


Feedback from the sessions

During the sessions there was a large amount of discussion between the groups. On the whole the attendees participated and were actively involved.

As with the Expectations sessions feedback was collected via a “3 minute paper” asking the attendees what was good, bad and missing. The majority of the students thought that very little was missing from the session, interestingly the major criticism of the sessions was that some of the GTAs had attended without putting the effort into the online material or marking before the session and the other GTAs found catching them up in their groups disruptive. Some GTAs didn’t like the fact that they had to mark a report out of their field; e.g. a chemical engineer having to mark a chemistry report; but others found this a strength of the activity, providing them with added confidence e.g. if I can mark this report well then I can certainly mark a report I know about.

Comments for the session under “what was good” included:

How to give the mark and make sure the mark is reasonable

The opportunity to compare your opinion with others

The thinking behind marking a paper

How people’s opinions can affect their marking, and importance to standardise marking


Reflections on the sessions

After running the sessions, I wanted to look at the usage of the online courses. Since it has been made available the Feedback course has been taken by 85 GTAs, which is most of the GTAs enrolled onto the course. When looking at the dates the course was taken I noticed that 37 GTAs have re-taken the course after the session since their teaching has begun. This is an added bonus as it shows that the information is useful to the GTAs.

When reflecting on the workshop session, I would have liked to devote more time to feedback. I felt that this was not given the time it needed, which is may be why so many GTAs recapped the feedback online course. This problem was due to a lack of time in the session, the discussion of the marks given lasted a lot longer than I had imagined that it would – filing most of the session. This will take some thought as extending the session is not practical.

In conclusion, this session was successful, and there have been comments from some of the GTAs that they are feeling more confident when marking.

For future training sessions on assessment and feedback it would be useful to think about how to provide oral feedback to the students and also how they can look at marking practical work and oral assessments.

by Dr Thomas Rodgers, CEAS


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