Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Reflections on marking systems

As I have finished my studies for this semester, I've been looking at the results I've achieved so far, in the mid-semester reviews for Pattern & Meaning and Visual Inquiry modules.  I continually reflect on marking systems, what they indicate, how students view them and how marking systems are used to convey information. 

My position is that I want to get a good mark, but it is not the be-all-and-end-all of my education.  I consider where my starting point was, what other factors influenced my outputs and whether I enjoyed the course content and the company of other people who are interested in the same specialist subjects.  I know I am not brilliant and the marks I achieve are through hard work, not through genius!  I've done many assessed courses in my time, both professional and vocational, and have worked with other students whose aspiration has varied from "I only want to pass" to "I'm a high achiever and only a Higher Distinction (or First) will do".  I am frequently astonished by people who get highly stressed or upset if they don't get the highest grade available.  (I get very stressed and my back plays up which is a good indicator if I am upset, but it's not over whether or not I get a top mark).  I also take into account whether the course content was to my taste and whether I liked what I made - often my conservative taste will reduce the score for originality etc.  If I liked what I made, and I can see it did not meet the originality/challenging nature of the spec, then I would expect the outcome to be lower, because I made what I liked, not what the assessors had defined on the assessment criteria.

I've looked at the mid semester results and find them interesting reading.  Factors that influence my interpretation are that when I have been a recruitment assessor, I have earned the reputation of being a hard marker - I only give points for explicit information gained, not implied information.  When I have been assessed, I have rarely gained an A grade (70%) during my UK education (I usually managed a B, because I lost points on completing, finishing and detail).  The data available to me here at Curtin is:

Class                            My score                Average            Median

Pattern & Meaning:  
Written work                 79%                      
Core practical                80%                          77.7               79

Visual Inquiry:
Core practical                 74%                          64                  74
Written work                  85%                          77                  88

So the Pattern & Meaning class gave me higher marks than I have ever achieved before.  This class was an absolute joy from day one.  I really enjoyed it from start to finish.  Given the closeness of the average (add all scores together and divide by number of participants, 13) and the median (score achieved by the middle person, student 7), it is likely we all scored well, and came out with a very high average.  But if you have a high average, this will skew a standard distribution curve.  So is the marking system reflecting high achievement all round, or is the marking system over-generous.  (I've done so much work since, that I can't remember what everyone else had done at this stage to draw a conclusion).

When it came to Visual Inquiry, I found the class very hard work.  I had to raise my game massively to keep up and struggled for the first half of the semester, possibly like quite a few others.  Yet the scores for practical work here show I was the median person (4/5th out of 8), yet the average is a lot lower than my result.  I suspect this indicates there were a cluster of us around 74% and a couple scraping a pass which reduced the average.   Had I been marking my practical work, I would not have given it 74%  (in the UK this would have been an A grade!).  On the written work, I found my article analysis heavy going and was astonished (which I concealed, and expressed delight instead) to get 85%!! My score was below the median, so I think there were a cluster of high scores at over 88%, with the average pulled down by a couple of basic passes.

Mind you, I'm not complaining about the good marks.  It's great to be able to send these results home to Herts.  I have not yet finished thinking about what the marks tell me.  Have I really raised my game sufficient to warrant these marks?  Is Australian education pushing my learning so I achieve more than in the UK?  Being a cynic - is the Australian system pushing out too many degrees with Distinction/ Higher Distinction?

There will be further reflections on comparative marking systems.  Let's hope it's not combined with tears at final assessment stage!

No comments:

Post a Comment