I tried an interesting (albeit not groundbreaking) experiment with my Level 4 learners yesterday.
After marking their recent assignments, it was clear that some of the learners were not quite on the ball with their academic writing skills. Amongst the problems which cropped up most commonly were:
- frequent use of unsubstantiated observations or comments
- fragmented sentences
- lack of referencing
- failing to answer the questions posed
- inaccurate content
As the group are well ahead of schedule in terms of module content, I decided to run a slightly different type of session, which had the following structure:
- First half an hour - feedback on previous written work, with pointers and advice for improvement
- An hour researching a given topic (which had already been covered in class previously) and writing up 300-400 words, complete with references, diagrams and citations as appropriate. All learners being given different questions
- Submission of the report to Turnitin (plagiarism checker) for their own review
Learners were then asked to print out their reports with a unique reference number on the top. I then sent them for a well earned break.
In the latter half of the lesson I gave each learner another learner's paper to mark. This involved their own research on the new topic of the report that they had been given, which they then had to mark with a letter grade, taking into account accuracy of content, structure, grammar, spelling, citations and referencing. Learners could not identify whose work they were marking because of the unique reference number, which I hoped would avoid favouritism, or more importantly embarrassment if someone felt they had not done well.
I was really pleased with the results of this session. When I asked the learners how they found marking someone else's work they all agreed that it was very difficult - partly because they had to be sure that the content was accurate, partly because in some cases they couldn't identify what content was original and what was quotes (because of poor referencing), and partly because they found it really hard to grade a fellow student - especially if they felt the student had done badly.
Reviewing the papers myself has also given me a great insight into how individuals work given the constraints of what was basically a timed assessment. I found it particularly interesting to review the marking carried out by the learners on each other.
This was definitely a worthwhile exercise, and I hope that by showing the learners what happens when their work is marked, it will improve how they present their own reports in the future.