Research staff may be asked to mark students' written work. This could include essays and assignments, problem sheets, lab reports or lab notebooks.
Most universities now use marking sheets or pro-formas for marking. These help to:
- ensure that all markers are using the same marking criteria
- streamline the assessment process
- improve quality assurance
- ensure that students get targeted feedback.
Check with your department to see what the departmental procedure is.
At first, departments may arrange for work that you are to marking to be double-marked, with feedback on your marking from the second marker. This helps you to align your standards with the standards used by other staff in the department. If this facility is not offered, it might be worthwhile to request it.
If the department does not use a marking feedback sheet or pro-forma then you need to find out:
- what are the learning outcomes for the particular piece of work? What skills, qualities, knowledge and understanding are students expected to demonstrate?
- what marking criteria are used in the department? What are the standards expected of a typical piece of work within a given grade or range of marks?
This marking feedback sheet (from University College London, Electrical Engineering) and typical marking scheme and associated guidance (from the School of Social and Political Sciences at Edinburgh University) provide examples.
Giving feedback to students
Feedback is crucial for two reasons:
- you can motivate students by letting them know what you think their strengths and achievements are
- you can improve students' performance by giving them guidance on the ways in which their work could have been improved.
Feedback must be handled sensitively. Students are more likely to take heed of constructive criticism if it is moderated by some encouraging words about things that they have done well, so:
- start by commenting on something that the students have done well. Tell them what it was and why it was right or good
- explain to students what they have done wrong or poorly. Give specific examples
- be selective. Don't overwhelm the student with too much criticism
- suggest how work could have been improved. Direct students towards sources of help or guidance if necessary
- try and end on a positive note.
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