Laurie Taylor Column

June 1, 2007

"The National Union of Students will be launching a campaign to persuade all universities to extend anonymous marking to all coursework so as to prevent bias by staff" - The Times Higher, May 25 .

The University of Poppleton

From: The Assessment and Examinations Committee

Subject: Bias in coursework

Following recent discussions on this committee about the possibility of bias in the assessment of coursework, it has been decided to issue the following guidelines.

Bias during coursework seminars

1. All indications of approval in coursework seminars (eg head nods, smiles) and all signs of disapproval (head shakes, snarls and leers) should be randomly distributed around the group.

2. Particular care should be taken not to give special attention to students who hand their work in on time, complete all the necessary preparation, and show an intelligent interest in the topic under discussion.

Bias during one-to-one meetings with students

1. All private one-to-one meetings with individual students should henceforth be held in the new coursework cubicles being installed in major departments.

2. Students who enter these darkened cubicles will be required to speak to their tutor through the specially installed voice-distortion grille.

3. Students should commence their personal tutorial session with the standardised opening: eg "I am Candidate 3257, and it is three weeks since my last coursework supervision."

Bias during coursework marking

As a final safeguard against bias, all coursework papers will be identified solely by number and will be anonymously marked by an anonymous marker recruited by an anonymous recruiter and then anonymously re-marked by an anonymous marker who does not know the first anonymous marker or his or her anonymous recruiter.

Strategic outcome

It is the committee's belief that the immediate adoption of these provisions will do much to obliterate any possibility that such dangerous components of bias as trust, compassion and empathy might develop between students and their personal tutors.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

Yours with carefully calculated sincerity, Administrative Office Number 281

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