The downside of anonymous marking

In my conversations with undergrads they seem to unilaterally believe that anonymous marking is great. For some reason, they seem to have this deep paranoia that if we know who wrote an exam answer that it would influence the mark we give. Firstly, this implies that we actually know the students 😛 and, secondly, there are contextual factors that we can’t take into account. If you know a student has been having a hard time, for example, but has been working their socks off, that does influence your mark. But in a good way.

 

If you’ve ever had the joy of sitting at preboard meetings were “special” circumstances are considered, then you probably know that the students aren’t really given a fair hearing. For example, I know a student who had a broken arm during the revision period and was denied a first class degree because, apparently, that isn’t serious enough and wouldn’t have affected her in the exam. Er, excuse me, have you tried revising with your writing arm in a cast? The external examiners believed that her grades were fair and couldn’t find any additional marks for her. But that is not what special circumstances meetings are for. It is not for determining whether the mark is fair, it is determining whether their performance has been adversely affected.  I’m always left feeling disappointed for the genuine cases after those meetings….it is like we have forgotten what it’s like being an undergrad.

 

So, I am contradicting myself. Anonymous marking does stop the marker from being influenced by the student’s history, but this is not necessarily a good thing. There is no need for paranoia. Knowing the person who wrote the answer is usually a good thing for the student. I’d go as far as to say that anonymous marking is to the disadvantage of the student. If special circumstances preboard meetings, in every department at every university, were consistent in how they assessed special circumstances, then anonymous marking would be fine. But they aren’t.

 

 

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