September 22nd, 2007
BBC News today reports that "Online marking systems ‘faulty’". Prima facie evidence is that with the growth of online marking there has been a corresponding increase of complaints about grades from teachers.
Exams are an inexact method of assessing students’ abilities. Teachers know their students thoroughly and are able to gauge with a very good degree of accuracy how they should perform in exams. When differences between expected performance and actual performance start become too widespread, then there is a problem with the examination system.
John Bangs, head of the NUT is reported as saying "They are not able to annotate the scripts by hand, there’s a time constraint and you can’t take into account youngsters who do quite a lot of writing and don’t fill in the standard box that online marking demands. So legitimately there’s a question whether or not online marking is missing some of the achievements of youngsters." There is also reported a trend towards less well paid, less well qualified examiners.
Technology has a worrying tendency to make things more uniform than they might otherwise be. Marking an exam can be a complex business, and it seems reasonable to contend that someone whose performance is good but unusual could be at a disadvantage in the new marking regime.