4.2 Marking students' course work

Below are some tips, guidance and prompt questions to help you with the marking and feedback process. Anyone wanting more detailed guidance may wish to find and read some of the resources recommended in Section 9|.

Checking things out

First, there are some important preliminaries you may wish to check out if you are new to marking or if you are new to the institution. Things to consider include:

  • Assessment regulations and requirements: see the Undergraduate section of the Calendar (lse.ac.uk/calendar), plus departmental handbook or relevant course outline.
  • ISSA specifications for some disabled students will mean that there is a letter of relevant advice which should be taken into account attached to the exam paper (eg about the impact of dyslexia on spelling).
  • Learning outcomes: these are usually incorporated into course guides but you may need to check with the teacher responsible for the course.
  • Assessment criteria: in most departments there is a set of agreed assessment criteria for work, but again you may need to check with the teacher responsible for the course. An example is given in Appendix 7, from the Sociology Department, showing the mark frame for its SO100 course.
  • Syllabus: see the Calendar course guides plus departmental handbooks and course outlines.
  • Previous assignments/essays/exams for these students and for past students on this course. Check if there is a bank of past student work that you can check out.
  • Marking/feedback sheets: some examples are offered in the Appendices, but do check to see if the teacher responsible has their own, or if there is a departmental version that has emerged and not yet filtered through to the Teaching and Learning Centre. (NB: If you produce your own, the Teaching and Learning Centre would love to see it!)
  • Likely grade distribution: it is worth checking around as to how others are grading, how last year's students did on essays, exams, etc.
  • How grades will be used: for example, General Course students will obtain an exam mark and a coursework mark from classes based upon their marked coursework, presentations and their participation in class. Both marks go forward to their course transcript.
  • The preferred grading convention for the course. Both percentages and letter grades are used at the School. Appendix 6 gives one department's interpretation of their inter-relationships and provides a guide to the associated descriptors. This example is used to mark undergraduate essays in International History. From the student perspective, an important part of understanding grading conventions is to know how these might relate to grades in exams or other formal assessment. Students also prefer it when faced with one (rather than multiple) set of grading conventions.

Many students say how much they appreciate my 'feed forward', which enables them to understand why they have lost marks, how they might improve and feel confident that we will achieve this together. But other students are disinterested and simply skim over my comments to look for their marks. To motivate students to reflect on and learn from their feedback I now focus on providing feedback to unassessed draft essays, before they are submitted. Then, keen to get a good mark and with an opportunity to respond to my comments, I have their attention.

Geography GTA

Getting down to marking

Marking often creates considerable anxiety amongst new GTAs, and many find it helpful to talk to colleagues, especially when starting out. Several departments now offer 'practice marking sessions' to new GTAs, or do some moderation of class work grading to ensure that class teachers are marking to a similar standard. The teacher responsible for your course may also ask or offer to look at a sample and check on your grading and feedback to students.

When you are faced with your first set of marking, make sure you give yourself time and space to mark. It requires good concentration even at the best of times, and especially the first few times. You may wish to try the following approach - see if it works for you:

  • Sort work into sets - similar/same topic; similar approaches.
  • Take the first five scripts, read them quickly, do not attempt to grade them but try to get a feel for the standard and range of approaches.
  • Mark using marking scheme/student feedback sheets. Take breaks and monitor yourself to make sure you are applying the same standards to each piece of work fairly.
  • Ask yourself about any biases you might have, eg gender/race/religion/age/disability/your existing perceptions of the student from class contact. If possible, it is best to mark 'anonymously', but this is not a requirement for class work. You may recognise student handwriting or points of view, so you need to be vigilant, and be prepared to reassess a piece of work before returning it to a student.
  • Record the grades on the online class register.

If you are concerned about a piece of work (eg worries over plagiarism), or realise, for example, that there is a problem with either the framing of, or 'model answer' to, a problem set question, do seek advice from the teacher responsible for the course.

You may wish to keep your own records on each student. Several class teachers now use feedback cover sheets (see Appendices| 3, 4 and 5), and fill them out electronically. This enables them to keep their own copies, which can be helpful in building up feedback to students over time.

A note on plagiarism

The following is an extract from the School's Regulations on Assessment Offences: Plagiarism (in full at www.lse.ac.uk/resources/calendar/academicRegulations/RegulationsOnAssessmentOffences-Plagarism.htm|). It is a good idea to refer students to these, especially the What is plagiarism? section.

  1. All work for classes and seminars as well as scripts (which include, for example, essays, dissertations and any other work, including computer programs) must be the student's own work. Quotations must be placed properly within quotation marks or indented and must be cited fully. All paraphrased material must be acknowledged. Infringing this requirement, whether deliberately or not, or passing off the work of others as the work of the student, whether deliberately or not, is plagiarism.
  2. The definition of a student's own work includes work produced by collaboration expressly allowed by the department or institute concerned or, at MPhil/PhD level, allowed under the Regulations for Research Degrees. If the student has not been given permission, such work will be considered to be the product of unauthorised collusion and will be processed as plagiarism under these regulations.
  3. Students should also take care in the use of their own work. A piece of work may only be submitted for assessment once. Submitting the same piece of work twice will be regarded as an offence of 'self-plagiarism' and will be processed under these regulations. However, earlier essay work may be used as an element of a dissertation, provided that the amount of earlier work used is specified by the department and the work is properly referenced.
  4. Each department and institute is responsible for instructing students on the conventions required for the citation and acknowledgement of sources in its discipline. The responsibility for learning the proper forms of citation lies with the individual student.
  5. These regulations apply to allegations of plagiarism against any student. The offence of plagiarism can take place in any work, though these regulations cover only alleged plagiarism in draft MPhil/PhD work and in assessed work submitted in connection with the requirements for an LSE award. Allegations of plagiarism against a student that are outside these regulations, for example in formative work or work submitted in connection with external publications, may be considered under the Disciplinary Regulations for Students.

There is some evidence to suggest that many new entrants to HE are not fully aware of proper referencing techniques, including referencing websites and informal references (eg, to a classmate's work, or lecturer's handout). Research by staff in the Department of Information Systems and Innovation Group also suggests that international students may not be aware of UK referencing conditions. You might wish to remind your students about the Library's information and courses on referencing and the Teaching and Learning Centre's study advice provision, both of which offer further information if necessary.

Many LSE departments make use of Turnitin, a text matching and plagiarism detection tool. For more on this see Technologies for teaching in Section 8|.  

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