Assessment workload: rationalising the marking of coursework
Bakula Patel (School of Community Health Sciences).
Assessment workload has increased drastically over the last few years as medical student numbers have increased and this has not been matched with a proportionate rise in the number of academic staff to deliver teaching. This increase is likely to continue in order to meet the demands and changes within the NHS.
A report from the Heads of Medical Schools in 2001 recommended an increase of at least a 1000 more clinical academic posts; however a recent survey found a 13% reduction in primary care academic posts. These changes, together with pressure to deliver curricular reforms have meant that more is expected of the academic staff in post. This change is likely in many courses across the University. One particular burden is that of adequately assessing student progress.
To examine ways of reducing assessment workload for tutors using marks obtained from assessment of student self-directed learning tasks in the first two years of the Nottingham medical curriculum without reducing the reliability of the assessment.
Retrospective analysis of coursework marks of first (n=231) and second (n=214) year medical students in the academic year ending 2003 at the University of Nottingham Medical School. A comparison was made with the marks awarded (being the average mark of all four learning tasks) and the marks awarded if a combination of questions were marked. Each learning task format is the same, it is the subject students chose to write about for each one that varies.
There is little variation between the marks except between the first and the other three individual learning tasks. The marking of the first three learning tasks would yield a result within one mark of the current mark awarded in 95% of students, with the next best option being the marking of task two alone. These options would reduce the marking workload by a quarter to three quarters.
Implications of findings:
This study highlights that based on coursework assessments, marking workload of tutors can be reduced and we need to consider these in view of the decline in the staff: student ratio. We need to be aware of the implications of this process on the students. Based on this study, the student handbook has been revised to inform students that only 2 of the learning tasks will be marked and the modified marking schedule (with a larger formative feedback element) has been included. This is based on students request for more written feedback. The students have been informed that unless they fall into a borderline category no more then the 2 learning tasks will be marked and that a random 10% undergo double marking. The marks for this coursework is a small part of a larger assessment process and will not on its own be responsible for students failing and has no bearing on the degree class awarded. The feedback from students on the modifications currently made will need to be looked at.