18 February 2010

On norm-referenced grading

A fascinating insight into how a US professor grades forty essays, on a norm-referenced basis. (If you're not familiar with that term, have a look here, with a more opinionated piece here.) Apart from her initial remakrs about approaching the drafts like a copy-editor, I have no idea what actual criteria she is using to make her judgements.

I referred here to another columnist's approach to grading, which seems to be based on the amount of work a student submits rather than on its quality;
"...you made the deadlines -- which is what I expect from everyone -- and you handed in the assignments -- which is also what I expect. That level of work secures students a "C" because that's what we call "meeting the minimum requirements" and in no case would that snag anybody an automatic A."
I may grumble about subject benchmarks and the generally dead hand of the Quality Assurance Agency on higher education in the UK--and of course the system conspicuously fails to deliver the consistency it claims--but at least the insistence on criterion-referenced assessment does mean that students and colleagues should know more clearly where they stand than in what appears from a distance to be a highly arbitrary world across the pond.

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