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Improving assessment practices - is there a place for online marking?

Claire Raistrick, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

The starting point of this educational inquiry is my concern that marking is time consuming when trying to provide high quality, useful feedback to assist student learning.  This poster gives a flavour of the process of creating ‘living theory' in an action research project into online marking, illustrating the energising nature of the 'action-reflection cycles'; cycles which encompass six elements: ‘observe - reflect - act - evaluate - modify - move in new directions' (McNiff & Whitehead, 2006, p.41 & 49).  It may be of interest to those concerned with assessment practices in higher education regardless of whether they are currently considering online marking.  Initially the purpose was to increase my knowledge of the affordances offered by GradeMark software.  However, my gaze turned to the wider purpose of assessment - this was prompted by the literature, interviews with two learning technologists and one academic working at different higher education institutions in England, and concurrent marking commitments.  The research question evolved from ‘How can GradeMark be used to mark assessments?' to the broader issue of ‘How can assessment practices be improved and might an online tool, such as GradeMark, assist this aim?'  In interviews my sense of inquiry was ‘how can participants' practices help mine?'  Emergent categories included the affordances of and barriers to using online marking, together with participants' views on resistance to online marking and what is needed for its successful implementation.  The relative positions of stakeholders are illustrated in a model where academics are found to be less aligned with online marking than administrators, technologists, students and institutions.  It is proposed that, grounded in their own contexts, academics should determine the pedagogical case for or against online marking and direct their practice accordingly.  Without such self-determination others may discover convincing reasons to impose change, leaving academics poorly placed to muster convincing arguments for or against.  Thus the pedagogical design of programmes is found to be important and suggestions for a participatory approach to develop feedback practices within a work team, prior to considering whether online marking is supportive of this, are made.  The significant influence being the pedagogical design of assessment processes within a particular programme, rather than whether a specific electronic tool facilitates specific functions - though this becomes important having decided to use such a tool.  Where online marking is indicated this is likely to require considerable institutional support in terms of leadership, training and technology.

Online marking, assessment, feedback, GradeMark, action research, action-reflection cycles

Poster - .pdf



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