21 March 2018

Anonymous marking

I never want to do this again! Generally, this blog isn't for venting, but now it is. Some time ago we had an away day at work, about assessment. On this day we were encouraged to do our marking anonymous. I can see the point! It's inevitable you like some students more than others, and there is always the risk you involuntarily let that influence you. So next time I set up an online assessment, or rather: two of them, I toggled the 'anonymous marking' box. How I would regret that.

If you don't mark anonymously, you can download the file the student has uploaded. You can just have it open in Word or Acrobat, while you also have the document in the viewer of the marking-and-feedback software, called Turnitin. But a word document contains information on its author, so when you mark anonymously, you can't do that. I had not realised that beforehand.

I have been marking a pile of essays, anonymously. And what a pain it was! And futile too; most students write their name on the document anyway. So why was it such a pain?

When marking an essay, you often want to check things. Has the student explained this abbreviation before? There is mention of, say, upwelling in the conclusions, but did they actually discuss it? Does that reference really contain the information? Does that text reference have a corresponding  reference in the bibliography? Does that reference in the bibliography have a corresponding text reference? And in Turnitin, you can't search. Not as far as I have found, anyway. And even if you could; you have to scroll up and down in the same document all the time to check such things. And Turnitin can be quite slow! So it's a complete pain. I like having the Turnitin document open with the Word doc next to it, with the Word document showing the bibliography and the Turnitin document showing whatever text I am currently working on. I use the Word document for searching; Word is quite quick. Works a treat!

Another issue is that you can't copy; if you want to check a reference, you can't just copy if from the essay into Google Scholar. You have to type it by hand. A pain! And if you want to write feedback to the student, and give examples of things, you can't copy them over either. Again, you have to type it by hand.

Last thing is that Turnitin gives you a word count, but only of the entire document. If you want to check if the abstract is the right length, for instance, you can't. 

Altogether, I hated it with a passion. I will go back to marking while knowing whose work it is I'm marking! It will be quicker, more accurate, and I will be a lot happier. I am convinced that is a stronger effect than any subconscious biases I may have...

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