Poor assessment

July 19, 2002

Frank Furedi's criticism of our research on academic assessment practice (Why I..., THES , July 5) misses a fundamental point: students expect a level of fairness and parity in the assessment of their work.

This expectation is reasonable. We know from previous research that assessment feedback has an impact on students' writing and confidence.

We do not know what difference moderation would make to our results or to what extent the 50 per cent level of marker agreement would be improved. We do not believe that 100 per cent marker agreement is possible, but we do believe that students will be more concerned with the justice of the system than with the rights of academics to what Furedi calls "intellectual diversity".

Our study confirms Furedi's analysis of the diversity of concerns applied by individual academics to undergraduate writing, yet we see this as a point of concern in contrast to his flip dismissal.

Our concern on behalf of students does not stem from a "new managerialist" ethos, but rather from a feminist concern that a laissez-faire approach to marking may allow individual constructions of identity and preferences on the part of the assessor to affect negatively the grades awarded to often non-traditional students.

Becky Francis and Barbara Read
North London University

Jocelyn Robson
Surrey University

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