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Innovative assessment

Pair marking: Working together to improve our teaching

Project leader(s): 
Nigel Gibson and Kate Sim

This project aims to investigate using dynamically shared marking documents to support new tutors. In the process it will also provide this group some additional mentoring, and it allow experienced tutors to reflect on their own work and to share and develop good practice.

The project leads have used shared marking documents for several years, 8 presentations of TM111 and previously on TU100. When marking each TMA we use a shared copy of the marking guide. On this document we share comments that we have written as feedback on student scripts. We also create a template with the standard information needed for each PT3; tutorial dates, reminders about iCMAs, and suchlike. We both prepare our own comments and templates, they have our voice, but by sharing them we can check our tone and understanding of the marking guide. We can also use comments written by the other marker; this is especially useful if one of us has already finished a batch of scripts. When we copy comments they are personalised, this might include referring to the student by name and often means editing the comment to reflect the student’s answer.

Feedback might be split into one of three types:

  • Standard – Comments for issues that arise on TMAs regardless of the question. They might include guidance on grammar or setting out answers. These comments are copied from previous presentations into the current marking guide. Where questions are reused some comments can be carried over from previous presentations.
  • Question specific – These comments relate to a particular variant of a question and will be generated while marking this batch of assignments.
  • One-offs – comments which are specific to this student. These comments are not added to the shared document.

Nigel Gibson and Kate Sim poster

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

Project leader(s): 
Jenny Duckworth and Harriet Kopinska

The level 3 module SDT306 Environment: Responding to Change takes an interdisciplinary approach to the challenges of responding to environmental issues. It fosters development of the skills required to contribute to sustainability debates, examines issues from multiple perspectives, and takes a holistic view of environmental systems.

The module employs criterion-based marking according to Learning Outcomes (LO). Tutors provide assessment feedback using a marking grid containing a detailed breakdown of the criteria relevant for each LO. The grids are designed to facilitate application of LO grading scales and to enable parity between tutor mark allocations, whilst simultaneously giving constructive feedback to students around LOs. However, student perception of the grids and how they engage with the grids is unknown, while tutors report that it can be challenging to ‘translate’ criteria into scores, particularly where several criteria apply to one LO.

Our research question is: “How do students and tutors use the marking grids on SDT306 and what is their experience of this approach?” We will collect and analyse quantitative and qualitative data on how tutors use the grids to determine LO grading scales, and how students interpret the grids and apply them to their learning. 

The analysis will generate a detailed insight into the student/tutor perspective on the use and interpretation of marking grids that could inform the future provision of marking guidance.

Applying this knowledge could lead to the following outcomes:

  • More consistent reference to LOs in feedback by tutors
  • More consistency in grading between tutors
  • Increased student awareness of LOs and application to their learning
  • Evidence for the value of this marking grid approach to STEM modules and those in other faculties that use a similar approach to assessment.

Jenny Duckworth and Harriet Kopinska poster

Student co-design of confidence-building formative assessment for Level 1 Computing & IT students

Project leader(s): 
Paul Piwek and Simon Savage

The pedagogic issue that will be addressed is the problem students face when learning a complicated skill such programming and problem solving. According to Jenkins (2002) this is a slow and gradual process with students learning at different paces. Additionally, students often start a programming course with the preconception that programming is difficult, which has a negative effect on their motivation and can be reinforced if they are subjected to summative assessment too early.

In TM112 (Introduction to computing and information technology 2), several strategies were used to build student confidence and encourage sustained practice and reflection (Piwek et al., 2019). Among other things, a new approach to formative assessment was explored, which makes use of strictly formative quizzes. To encourage students to engage with these quizzes, students were rewarded with a small number of marks for including evidence of engagement with the quizzes with their TMAs. Marks were for the evidence of engagement and personal narrative/reflection on their engagement with the quiz questions. Since the quiz questions were not marked, students were also encouraged to discuss their attempts and answers with other students.

The main task of this proposal will be to:

  • investigate the effectiveness of the student discussions that took place about the quiz questions.
  • involve students in further increasing the effectiveness by co-designing quiz questions that are specifically aimed at helping students gain understanding and lead to in-depth peer discussions/dialogue. The aim will be to better understand the student perspective on design and presentation of the quizzes.

The main outcomes will be:

  • new and/or redesigned quiz questions for TM112
  • recommendations for design of formative assessment based on the co-design process
  • insights into the benefits and pitfalls of co-design activities with students

The impact of this research will consist in further improvements to student engagement and understanding of formative assessment.


Jenkins, T. (2002). ‘On the Difficulty of Learning to Program’, Proceedings of the 3rd Annual HEA Conference for the ICS Learning and Teaching Support Network, pp. 1-8

Piwek, Paul; Wermelinger, Michel; Laney, Robin and Walker, Richard (2019). Learning to program: from problems to code. In: Third Conference in Computing Education Practice (CEP), 9 Jan 2019, Durham, UK.

Piwek, P. and Savage, S. (2019) Project poster (PDF)

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