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Challenges of assessment for a level 3 interdisciplinary module: an AL and student perspective

  • Project leader(s): Jenny DuckworthHarriet Kopinska
  • Theme: Innovative assessment
  • Faculty: STEM
  • Status: Archived
  • Dates: August 2021 to February 2023

Student engagement and learning is strongly driven by assessment feedback. On the interdisciplinary module SDT306 (Environment: Responding to Change), tutors grade and provide feedback against learning outcomes (LOs) using a marking grid. Due to a lack of information on how students perceive and engage with the marking grids, alongside challenges in using the grids reported by tutors, research was undertaken to determine how students and tutors used and experienced the grids and to identify any barriers to effective engagement with then.

A mixed method approach was used involving surveys to collect quantitative data and interviews to collect qualitative data, on student and tutor experiences of the marking grids.

The key findings in terms of student and tutor experiences were:

  • most students read the grids, and approximately one third of them reviewed the grids in detail before working on a subsequent TMA
  • the grids help students understand the LOs they had achieved, at least to some extent
  • most students found some value in the grids for making it clear how well they met the LOs
  • there was no consistent opinion amongst students regarding the clarity of the grids for different questions
  • most tutors found applying the criteria to award scores using the grid resulted in a different mark from their initial impression mark
  • some tutors ‘fudge’ the grid to meet the impression mark whilst others use the grid criteria directly for grading
  • fewer than half the tutors found the grid criteria easy to apply, and this varied across different questions
  • some tutors found the grids a clear method for marking to LOs.

The project identified the following barriers to engagement with the grids:

  • grids help students identify what is correct, but not always what is wrong
  • script comments are needed as well as the grids
  • students find the actual LOs unimportant and difficult to comprehend/apply
  • students would like it to be clear how the LOs/criteria relate to the TMA question whilst they are writing their assignments
  • grids are not generally considered ‘user friendly’ due to their size
  • the marking grid approach is more time consuming for tutors than the standard marking method.

Discussion of the findings and barriers to engagement with the SDT306 Module Team led to the following outcomes, which should benefit students and tutors on future presentations of the module:

  • the Module Team created a slide for tutors to use in introductory tutorials to explain the marking grid approach to students
  • the Module Team explained the marking grid approach to students at the module-wide introductory tutorial at the start of 22J
  • the Module Team ran marking discussions for TMA01 & TMA03 where tutors had the chance to discuss grading and ‘troublesome’ criteria
  • the Module Team will be making checklists of criteria, together with the LO(s) they relate to, available to students for each TMA from 23J onwards. 
Related Resources: 
File Jenny Duckworth and Harriet Kopinska.pptx95.88 KB

Project poster.