Friday, 6 August 2021

Marking rubrics and feedforward

It is that time of the year to appreciate the joys of assignment marking. I have explored this topic before (here), but we can always take another look.

I use a tick-box rubric created in Excel. I only need to put an "x" in the intersection between the grade and the element for the sheet to calculate the mark. I break down all the elements required for each section of the marking sheet which aligns with the learning outcomes. I have a small amount of space at the bottom of the marking sheet for comments (see the image attached). Thus there is very little writing to be done when marking each assessment. This means that once I get underway, my marking only takes a few minutes over the time it takes to read each assessment. 

In my experience, individualised, tailored comments is where much of our time as markers is consumed. while we feel that is useful feedback to the student, annotating scripts causes the most angst - and gobbles up the most time - for markers. 

As I mark electronically, I am able to save text which detailing common errors. In the past, I have tried using a comments bank, just cutting and pasting those comments on the script annotations where less able students miss the point. However, we still usually need to provide example specific to each student, which still adds time and complexity to the marking process.

Further, script annotations only show WHERE something is not quite right, not HOW MUCH is not right. A student going through their annotated script will not necessarily see the strengths of the work; only what the marker has identified as being 'wrong'. Not very developmental.  

Ah: but then there is the thorny issue of whether student read the annotations that we have spent so much time doing. A former colleague of mine would, in reading student assignments, record his feedback to an MP3. He would detail in his feedback what the student could have improved, where they made errors, and where they got their best marks. He kept the sound file in the cloud, and would advise the students when he uploaded the mark and the marking rubric to Moodle, that if they would like his comments he would send them a link to the sound file. In four years, no one asked for the link; so he stopped recording and storing the sound files. He worked out early where his effort would best be focused, and so saved himself a lot of time.

What I do instead is to offer to review a draft per student a week before submission: that way, students get formative and timely feedback. Not only is summative feedback is less useful, as - usually - those learning outcomes have been fully examined, but well-organised students get a bonus for their ability to get on with the work early. It provides - if you will - feed-forward. I find about a third of students do this. 

As a result, my marking is a breeze with the students who have had draft feed-forward. I now only supply the mark, and the marking rubric, to students. And the process is much faster than the other way around.


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