Clarifying assessment criteria and setting expectations.

In conversation with: Christopher Barnatt, David Clarke, Mike Clifford, Azi Etire (Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering), Nicola Pitchford. Produced: November 2009; Duration: 5 minutes : 3 seconds.

Azi Etire:
I think in Nigeria the years of your performance are equally weighted, every year so, for example, if you are doing a 4 year course each year weighs 25%

but here it progresses, the weighting and so the weight of my first year is less that that of my second year and it kind of increases as you go. In one sense this system gives you the chance to gradually develop your abilities and get better at your skills so you do better and on the other hand it will mean that because it gets difficult it might be harder to do well in the higher years

Nicola Pitchford:
I think you just need to be very clear upfront, what the purpose of the task is, so, you know, if it's a third year project, what, what needs to be done, what your role is in that, so I sort of state quite clearly, what the school considers my role to be. And there are specific guidelines on that. I give the students a timeline as to when I expect things to be done and work with them alongside that, so I'll say, Does, you know, is that okay? does that fit in with what you're doing? and that kind of thing. You've always got to be fairly flexible.

David Clarke:
when they've written an essay and I'm giving them feedback on the work after it's been marked, I will quite routinely, I hope with their agreement and consent, it certainly seems to be but that's an issue, let them read on another's work, so they'll, everybody will pass their essay to the left as it were, re-read it, sometimes re-mark it, which is quite an interesting issue. They are very seldom unduly harsh with one another's work for obvious reasons, I don't think they'd want to sit there and tear the work to shreds of the person sitting next to them. They're not particularly over-generous either but I think what that exercise does is that it makes them very mindful of what the marking process is and what the marking criteria are, because we publish our marking criteria and we try and get them to understand them but even on a good day, I think they understand them as being some sort of mysterious recipe that we use and they may believe that we do use it. The idea that it's also their guidance on what they're trying to do, it's also the recipe for how to do a piece of work, not just the recipe for how to mark a piece of work, and if they once came to understand it, then they could implement it and they could do good work because they know what good work is. And the way of driving that home, we feel, is to get them using those criteria to mark pieces of work they haven't seen before because it's then you really start to see what we mean by originality or depth of insight or something that sounds a bit sort of hard to define.

Chris Barnatt:
You know so if you're setting an assignment or you're setting an exam question but you're explicit, you don't just say, discuss something, you don't… the classic academic question at social times is discuss the relevance of. That's a pretty meaningless thing to write, you're much better to say actually well give examples of is this right, is this wrong, arguing the perspective of. So that you're actually requiring people to come up with a point of view and to justify it. So I think there's things we can do in terms of the question setting that encourages people away from the stock answer as it were. And again this is an issue that you might initially address at because you've got a large number of overseas students in the group but in practical terms that helps everybody in the group and it's you know a lot of UK students struggle just as much with that issue.

Mike Clifford:
The role of the lecturers, I try to think, I've said things like I can be a bullfighter, so I can sort of wave red rags at students and maybe sort of just antagonise them a bit sometimes. So we do stuff on climate change. And I get in a speaker who's quite cynical about climate change and global warming in particularly, and some of the students react very angrily to this in their exam answers, they say, Well, you know, of course we know global warming is a fact and, you know, it's foolish to depend, pretend otherwise, and what I'm really looking for then is for them to say, Well, show me the evidence. I do a lot of Show me questions as well, you know, don't say It is obvious that, because, if it's obvious, I don't want to be told that, but show me, you know, show me, show me the climate change data, show me the stats that are going to back up your argument either for or against global warming so, you know, give me some information there. So I can be a bit provocative, I like to raise questions, get them thinking.

Short paper

Academic integrity: plagiarism and cultural difference: Plagiarism has become a major issue in Western academic institutions, and the idea of "plagiarism" is not universal. The reasons given for why students plagiarise range from lack of management skills, beliefs, values, stress, social and peer group pressure. Park (2003:480i) notes that international students have been described as "persistent plagiarisers". In defence, some (Burnett cited in Park 2003) consider international students as generally "unintentional plagiarisers", having inadequate understanding of citation and referencing skills, or lacking in understanding what plagiarism in fact is. This paper looks briefly at the recent recognition of contributions that cultural traditions might be making to the problem of plagiarism, and to the fact that plagiarism is essentially a construct associated with specifically western notions and values.
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