Every second mark counts

March 25, 2010

As the challenge to tertiary education professionals continues to soar inexorably, and as the resources to meet this challenge are systematically strip-mined by the government at every turn, an option presents itself that could free resources and reduce pressure on academics. I refer to second marking.

I recently spoke to an American colleague who was astonished that the UK system refuses to trust its scholars to do the job for which they were trained. If a similar time-consuming and unnecessary practice were proposed in the business sector (upon which we are encouraged to model ourselves), it would be rejected out of hand. In the academy, the implication is that scholars cannot be trusted; and yet after 13 years of assessing students, I still find it rare that any two academics will widely disagree on a mark.

Students, of course, should be entitled to request second marking, and less experienced colleagues should be able to consult more experienced co-workers. But to continue to make everyone second mark is a waste of resources. Things are tight: this is an obvious way of slackening them.

David Roberts, University of Ulster.

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