1. I wrote a thread a while back on Why #Marking Is So Shit in which I argued that the conditions under which we mark (e.g. time pressure) make it almost impossible to do a good job
2.These pressures are due to the marketization of HE which values measurable outcomes (e.g. turn-around times) over more intangible outcomes like encouraging students’ learning.
3. Now, with everyone worried about #GradeInflation and #EssayMills I feel it’s time for another thread on why marking, or at least the way we mark in the UK feels so destructive
4.The first is thing is that grading itself is an alienating activity in the Marxist sense of the word. It destroys solidarity by pitting us against one another. By putting a number on students’ achievements in a module we put them in competition with one another.
5. Making us sit in judgement over them colours all interactions w/ students. We might want to encourage critical thinking, creativity and love of knowledge in students. But whatever we do with them we all know that at the end they will be judged with a number
6.And that number will have power over them. It will tell themselves and the world if they are better than others, passing, failing. It might open or close doors for them
7.Because this number is so important to students they resent us when we give them a worse grade than they think they deserve. They may worry about disagreeing with us
8.Or they will fight us when we give them a bad grade. We feel treated badly when students complain about the grades we’ve given. But we shouldn’t be surprised if students complain about grades being unfair. Because they are. Grading essays is unfair.
10.Attempts to make marking fairer has paradox consequences. Grading matrixes that make it clearer what is expected from students makes essays more and more formalistic.
11.The most depressing thing about marking is when we you have an essay that is really creative or critical and you have to give it a mediocre grade because it doesn’t tick boxes.
12.The way we grade now punishes students who take risks, who think outside the box and rewards those who mechanically follow instructions. It encourages students to play the system.The current moral panic around #EssayMills is just a logical conclusion of this development
14.Marking also encourages us to mistrust and resent students. We feel the need to catch students out for plagiarising. We get angry for at them for not doing better. All of these things are results of alienation, of being pitted against one another.
15. But grading also has a more proactive disciplinary function. 16.For students getting marked for an essay means that no matter how creative or critical they are, what matters in the end is obedience to set rules.
17.If they veer from the very narrow path of what makes a “good” essay they will be punished. The hidden curriculum of marking is that obedience to rules trumps all else. By marking essays we are actively participating in oppression.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_cu…
18.This is not a critique of assessments or essays in general. Reading students’ essays and giving feedback should and could be a stimulating experience. A way to help students develop their thinking. Assessments can do that, but only if the grades are not given undue importance
19. But this goal is incompatible with sorting people into neat categories for employers. It leads us to a more fundamental question of what higher education is for. If we want to build a better higher education system we need to resist grades.
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