Thursday, 8 April 2010


It's marking time again, and I have been given a new task. Cross-course moderation. Now, don't misunderstand me, I do think students should have fair treatment, and grades should be justified, but are all these multiple processes really, really necessary? Each essay is marked by two independent markers; if they give different grades, even slightly different, they have to moderate and agree. If they absolutely don't agree, the essay goes to a third marker. Fool-proof, you would say. No, not quite. Cross-course moderation means you are given a number of essays from another course, preferably one excellent, one average and one on the edge of fail. My assignment as cross-moderator is to read the essays and the markers' comments and decide, firstly, whether the grade is fair, and secondly, whether the comments are helpful. The comments are supposed to be formative. I actually like the idea. The student can learn a lot from good comments, just as you can learn a lot from a good peer review of your article. Unfortunately, they are not always good. What I do, then, is write comments on comments. Meta-comments.

Note that the essays will then go further to external examiners and after that to the examination board. They take things seriously here in Cantabrigia.

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