Marked problem of rewarding status quo 3

August 7, 2008

I have to endorse everything Felipe Fernandez-Armesto says. On the PGCE course I completed this year, tutors were obliged to mark according to inflexible criteria and not to exercise their own professional judgment of the quality of the work submitted. However, a presumably unintended consequence of this is that it tends to reward uniformity of response in the work of the students being taught.

For my first assessment, I was told that "although you have cited four texts in your 500-word rationale and explained all the choices you made, you did not cite a journal article, so we can only award you a C+".

For a group-working assignment, I was told: "You have thoroughly explained a student-centred teaching method and meticulously related it to theory, but you haven't explicitly stated that fieldwork is applicable to team members' own disciplines of sociology and physics, so we can only give you a B-." So it went on. Any A grades were gained by bolting on criteria-referenced statements to please the examiners once I'd tackled the main body of the assignment to my own satisfaction.

How can originality be rewarded if grades depend on insights being anticipated by whoever devises the mark scheme?

David Knight, Newport, Gwent.

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