Sunday, 24 June 2012


TEACHER 1: So, before we get down to looking through this student’s work what's your gut feeling about their mark… a “B”?

TEACHER 2: Sorry, I don’t think this is appropriate – we haven’t even looked at the backup work yet.

TEACHER 1: Sure, but you must have an idea of where they stand in terms of mark.

TEACHER 2: No, I don’t know that that I do – that’s what this process is supposed to be about surely.

TEACHER 1: It is. I was just trying to get a sense of whether we were in the least bit in agreement about the overall achievement of this student.

TEACHER 2: How can we even know that without having looked at their work?

TEACHER 1: We have though, throughout the year. Okay, I haven’t gone through it in detail yet but we’ve known them for several years now and we’ve got a pretty good sense of their track record surely?

TEACHER 2: So you think that by plucking a mark out of the air that we will be more likely to award the correct mark?

TEACHER 1: Steady on! No, not in the least. I just thought it might be useful if we knew where we were starting from, that’s all.

TEACHER 2: Well I’d prefer if we didn’t start by pigeonholing anybody and I’d also prefer not to be influenced by suggested marks before I’ve even had a chance to go through the work and form my own opinion.

TEACHER 1: That’s totally fine by me. But you seem to be suggesting that starting with a provisional mark is wrong.

TEACHER 2: I think it is wrong.

TEACHER 1: Really, why?

TEACHER 2: Because you’re starting with a bias and the likelihood is that you’ll just end up confirming the bias.

TEACHER 1: I don’t think that’s true at all. I start with a sense of what the student has achieved in the past and how their current performance compares with that. I’m also comparing their work with other work I have seen over the years at this level. As I look through their work I’m obviously looking for evidence to contradict my initial assumptions. If I find it I adjust my evaluation. If I don’t find any, my evaluation stays the same. I don’t see how that’s wrong.

TEACHER 2: And how can you be sure that the mark you start with isn’t subtly influencing your evaluation?

TEACHER 1: I’m not using it to reinforce my opinions. I’m using it as a starting point. I’m quite happy for it to change – radically if necessary. But are you telling me that you never come to the assessment of work with a ballpark idea of a mark?

TEACHER 2: I think it’s important to try to be as objective as possible.

TEACHER 1: Sure, but that’s not really what I asked. Are you saying that you treat each student’s work as though you’ve never seen it before?

TEACHER 2: I try to divorce myself from any preferences I might have formed in the time that I have known the students and yes I try to approach each student’s work as if I’ve never marked it before. Their track record is totally irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. If they have done really well in the past or really badly it has no baring on what they have submitted here. I have to mark it in relation to what is expected at the level.

TEACHER 1: So it doesn’t matter if they are seriously struggling or have improved massively since their last assessment?

TEACHER 2: Of course it matters, and we should mention it in our feedback, but that’s not what we’re marking. Marks aren’t rewards or punishments for getting better or worse. They’re an indication of the attainment of a specific level of learning.

TEACHER 1: Yes yes I know that, but do you think that we should completely ignore their journey?

TEACHER 2: In the marks, yes.

TEACHER 1: Going back to something you said a moment ago - you said you gauge the students’ work in relation to the level that is expected?

TEACHER 2: Of course.

TEACHER 1: Then I don’t really see how that is significantly different from having a ballpark idea of the mark at the beginning. Surely as you look through their work you begin to form an idea of the mark and then you keep looking until the evidence becomes overwhelming one way or the other?

TEACHER 2: No, that’s not how I evaluate things at all. I start with what is expected at the level and as I go through the work I’m looking for how well it achieves the required level. The marks are secondary.

TEACHER 1: But that sounds almost identical to what I do except I’ve already converted the level outcomes to a grade in my mind beforehand, but I‘m still looking for what is expected at the level.


TEACHER 1: So what mark would you award this work?

TEACHER 2: I think it’s a “C”.

TEACHER 1: Yeah, I think it’s a “C” too. So, why do you think it’s a C?...

Any resemblance in the preceding script to characters or situations real or imagined is purely coincidental.


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