2000 Vol. 5 No. 3
 

MARKING GUIDELINES: GETTING THEM RIGHT?

Talking with teachers across the State has convinced me of the enthusiasm for “getting it right” when it comes to changes affecting students in high stakes examinations like the HSC. Teachers want to know exactly what has to be done so that they can get it right for their students and their school. One answer is to read the growing volume of support publications available to teachers:

  • Board of Studies subject syllabuses
  • Subject Examination, Assessment and Reporting Supplements (EARS)
  • Specimen Papers (not the Sample Papers)
  • Board of Studies Assessment Support Document
  • Board of Studies subject support documents
  • New HSC Assessment and Reporting Bulletins (green and yellow)
  • Materials from LIG assessment events
  • CURRICULUM SUPPORT (HSIE): New HSC supplements
  • New HSC web site http://www.newhsc.schools.nsw.edu.au

There really is a lot of important information available already. When this information is absorbed, teachers still have to apply it to their subject and their class. In CURRICULUM SUPPORT (HSIE) Vol. 5, No. 2, Term 2, 2000, the article Developing assessment tasks (p. 9) outlined a process for development and the issues that teachers need to address at each step.

It advocated a small number of outcomes for each task and that tasks be straightforward, that is, not multifaceted. This advice was given so that teachers could make the development of a rubric and marking guidelines an easier task.

Teachers following this advice have found the process simpler but still had difficulty with the development of marking guidelines. The reasons for this difficulty are that:

  • it is a new process for most teachers
  • it takes practice teachers have too high an expectation of their first efforts
  • there is no one correct model.

As outlined in the Assessment and Reporting Bulletin No. 3, marking guidelines are particularly important because:

  • they are linked to standards, with reference to the outcomes and content of syllabuses
  • they support consistent marking
  • they distinguish different levels of achievement.

Improving assessment practices by writing explicit criteria in the marking guidelines for different levels of achievement is a challenge. In accepting the challenge, here is an annotated example. Although it’s for Modern History, all HSIE teachers will find the process and annotated comments of interest. (This is a reworked example, first published in materials for the 1999 assessment LIG.)

Outcomes, task and rubric

OUTCOMES
P1.2 describes the role of key individuals, groups, events and ideas in different nineteenth and twentieth century historical investigations.
P2.1 identifies the forces that contributed to change and continuity in different nineteenth and twentieth century historical investigations and describes their significance.
P3.1 uses historical terms and concepts appropriately within the contexts of nineteenth and twentieth century historical investigations.
P5.1 selects and organises relevant historical information from a variety of sources.

TASK
1. Select one of the following people: Asquith OR Poincaré OR Kaiser Wilhelm II OR Emperor Franz Josef OR Tsar Nicholas II.
2. Research and write an essay of 1000 words in answer to the following: Explain the way in which the role of the selected person reflected three emerging forces in the world at the beginning of the twentieth century.
3. Attach a consistently formatted bibliography of the sources you used for your essay.

Component:
The world at the beginning of the twentieth century (Research)
Weighting: 20
RUBRIC
In this task you will be assessed on your ability to:
1. explain the role of the key individual and the significance of three forces that contributed to change and continuity
2. use historical terms and concepts appropriately
3. list and use information from a variety of relevant primary and secondary sources to support your argument.

Note the selection of a small number of outcomes and the straightforward (although not simple) task.

What model of marking guidelines?

There is a choice about what model of marking guidelines can be used. Each model, or variation, or
combination, has its own advantages and disadvantages.

1. Holistic criteria statements
In this model, broad statements are developed using the outcomes and rubric. The number of levels of performance to be written can be a difficult decision. The greater the number, the more difficult it is to find the words to differentiate performance from one level to the next.

If five levels are chosen and assigned the 20 marks available, 0-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-20, one problem, differentiating performances, is solved but another is created. The additional problem is within each level, where teachers need to differentiate four further levels of performance without any specific criteria. For example, what is the difference in performance between a 9, 10, 11, or 12?

One way to partly overcome this problem is to use a simpler set of marks: 0-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, and to adjust the final score to the allocated weighting. Within each level it is difficult, but possible, to distinguish performance on a two-point scale. The holistic criteria statements allow for single judgements of student performance but require teachers to keep all the criteria in mind when marking.

They encourage teachers to have holistic pictures in their mind of the standard represented by each of the levels. Each picture needs to be clear to assist accurate judgements.

Another problem with this model is that teachers can, intentionally and unintentionally, give different criteria a different weighting when applying them. These decisions are often hidden (from students) by both the way in which performance is described holistically in the marking guidelines and the way in which teachers use them.

Marking guidelines (Mark to be converted to the task weighting)
Criteria
uses a range of primary and secondary sources and an appropriate wide range of historical terms and concepts to explain in detail the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected each of three emerging forces in the world at the beginning of the 20th century
Marks
9-10
uses a range of primary and secondary sources and an appropriate wide range of historical terms and concepts to explain the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected emerging forces in the world at the beginning of the 20th century, but is unable to sustain the explanation 7-8
uses some primary and secondary sources and a range of historical terms and concepts to provide a descriptive narration of the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected each of three emerging forces in the world at the beginning of the 20th century 5-6
uses some primary and secondary sources and some historical terms and concepts to provide a descriptive narration of the way in which the role the selected leader reflected some emerging forces in the world at the beginning of the 20th century 3-4
uses mainly secondary sources and some historical terms and concepts to provide a limited or part narration of the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected emerging forces in the world at the beginning of the 20th century. 1-2

2. Separate criteria
Rather than holistic statements, this second example uses the statements within the rubric and outcomes to develop performance levels for each part of the criteria. Each level of performance has separate statements for each part of the criteria. Again not having too many levels, or too many marks per level, will help teachers in making judgements.

Marking guidelines

Criteria

  • explains in detail the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected each of three emerging forces
  • uses appropriately a wide range of historical terms and concepts
  • lists and uses a wide range of relevant primary and secondary sources
Marks
9-10
  • explains the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected some, but not all three, emerging forces
  • uses appropriately a wide range of historical terms and concepts
  • lists and uses a range of relevant primary and secondary sources
7-8
  • describes the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected all three emerging forces
  • uses appropriately a range of historical terms and concepts
  • lists and uses some relevant primary and secondary sources
5-6
  • describes the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected some, but not all, of the emerging forces
  • uses a limited range of historical terms and concepts
  • lists and uses some primary and secondary sources
3-4
  • provides limited description of the way in which the role of the selected leader reflected some of the emerging forces
  • uses some historical terms and concepts
  • lists and uses a few sources, mainly secondary
1-2

The advantage of this model is that teachers can have the performance level on each marking criterion clearly in their mind when assessing students’ work. The problem is that students do not always perform at the same level on each part of the criteria. Their performance may be at a different level for different parts of the criteria. Teachers have to make a judgement about where the student’s average performance lies or which level is the best fit or picture of performance. An advantage for some students, and a difficulty for others, could be that the assessor values some criteria more than others, resulting in a higher or lower mark than the student might expect.

3. Multiple guidelines
Although more difficult to develop, the use of multiple guidelines or scales for some questions can make teacher judgements about performance easier. In this model each of, or combinations within, the criteria have separate scales. Marks need to be allocated to each scale and this allocation should be communicated to students before they do the task. The model suits tasks where the marks are allocated already to different parts of the task.

Scale 2 *Rubric, point 2 (Possible marks 4)
Criteria
includes appropriately a wide range of
historical terms and concepts
Marks
9-10
includes appropriately a range of historical
terms and concepts
7-8
includes appropriately a limited number
historical terms and concepts
5-6
includes, not always appropriately, a limited
number of historical terms and concepts
3-4

 

Scale 3 *Rubric point 3 (Possible marks 6)
Criteria
lists a range of primary and secondary sources and uses them to provide relevant information to support the explanation of the role of the selected leader in relation to all three emerging forces.
Marks
6
lists a range of primary and secondary sources and uses them to provide relevant information to support the explanation of the role of the selected leader in relation to some of the emerging forces 5
lists some primary and secondary sources and uses them to provide information to explain the role of the selected leader in relation to some of the emerging forces 4
lists some primary and secondary sources and uses them to provide relevant information to support the descriptive narration of the role of the selected leader in relation to the three emerging forces 3
lists some primary and secondary sources and uses them to provide information to support the descriptive narration of the role of the selected leader in relation to some of the three emerging forces 2
uses a few sources, mainly secondary, to provide information to support the narration of the role of the selected leader in relation to some of the emerging forces 1

There is no single right answer about the model to be chosen for marking guidelines. Clearly teachers have options to choose from. Their choice will depend on the nature of the task, the outcomes chosen and the rubric. Some of the key messages are:

  • There is no one right way.
  • It’s alright to try different models.
  • Quality will improve with practice.

John Gore
CEO, HSIE