Feedback and marking : quality and standards

In my previous  post about feedback I got feedback (thanks)  about the subjectivity of the feedback system, this is reiterated every results day in my mailbox. This set me musing … further … 

Essentially there is unease at the existence of marker preference or marker emphasis. My first thought on this was yes –  there is. In any art or social science this is inevitable and inline with the subjects deepest philosophical underpinnings.  Thinking then in more detail about ways to eradicate this there may be scope in paired marking or explicit areas for the student to ‘hit’ (and for markers to assess). However the paired marking it seems to me would merely offer some kind of sense of safety in numbers, which makes the process no more visible or objective. Then, criteria setting at a task level feels like undermining the holistic production of research and adds a sense of micro-management not in keeping with graduateness. So should we eradicate these differences or come to understand and appreciate them. 

What is critical here is that the issues lie with feedback I and absolutely not with marking. Since my first marking experience in HE, I can reveal that OI have never had any moments of unreasonable numeric disparity in marking. The figures of marking do stack up.

A casual conversation with Piers Maclean on assessment led me to reach a point of understanding. Simple perhaps, but important: The marking process is standard based, the feedback process is a monologue judgement about quality. 

Reaching a mark is quite straight forward within what is essentially a public marking scheme. A piece of work use literature, connects with literature or elaborately collates and synthesises ideas from literature. In effect it does or it does not. But the feedback is far more subjective. It is a subjective commentary on what has been done, what may have been done, what could be done differently, where things may be developed for ‘next time’ and where energies may be placed in future assignments. The mark is arrived at quite differently in a far more transparent way than the subjective feedback.

So the emerging question is, should feedback be objectified as a process or appreciated in its natural subjective form.  


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