In my first year as head of Mathematics, a couple of my older staff members felt that some of the less experience Mathematics teachers were marking assessment items “easy”, giving their students better marks than they should receive. This raised issues for students competing for university places particularly in the sort after faculties. The better the mark gained in Mathematics the greater the chance of gaining entry to the sort after courses.
To resolve the issue, I set up a procedure that was to be follow by teachers to give credence to the idea that the marking of assessment tasks was consistent within all classes. Each year level or Mathematics subject had a unit coordinator who was responsible for writing the assessment tasks and organising the marking of them. The coordinator was responsible to implement the following procedure.
The procedure was as follows:
- Each Unit Coordinator would give teachers a detailed Marking Scheme/Marking Criteria.
- This Marking Scheme was obligatory on all staff.
- If any problems arise, the Unit Coordinator was to issue a new detailed Marking Scheme taking into account any new alternative solutions/approaches. (Problem solving/critical thinking/higher order thinking questions often led to alternate solutions).
- Part marks, as indicated, must be adhered to.
- Students may solve the problem in a different way or use a different approach. If it is correct and doesn’t contravene any instructions, full marks must be given.
- The marking of the examination papers would be broken into several parts with one teacher marking one part of every student’s examination paper. This would create consistency of marking for each part of the examination.
- For tasks like assignment, one person would mark the assessment tasks of all students in the cohort. This type of marking would be shared among staff over the whole year.
- Where criteria were used to assess the tasks, teachers must mark to those criteria only.
- Criteria for problem solving/critical thinking/higher order thinking questions, written on the assessment task, should be general in nature. The criteria to be used should only be included in the marking scheme given to the teacher marking the item/s. Particular criteria printed on the assessment task could lead students towards a solution.
- Each coordinator must ensure that copies of the final versions of the marking scheme/criteria were stored with the assessment tasks in the official files.
- The Head of Department must be made aware of any problems as soon as possible so they may be resolved to allow marking to be completed quickly.
This procedure was printed in the staff handbook. When the procedure began to be used it actually reduced the marking workload on the teachers. Marking one section of each student’s examination was much quicker than marking all the questions of your students. The teacher had to remember less. There was less page turning and the teachers were able to spot mistakes quickly and recognise alternate solutions easily. The marking teacher could pass information on to his/her colleagues about area that were badly understood and needed to be revisit in class. The teachers adopted the system quickly.