Talking about judgements

A key feature of our approach to assessment is an emphasis on practices that involve students and help them to make and understand judgments about the quality of written work, seeing if possible, ways in which improvements can be made. As a result, much of our work has explored the involvement of students in assessing their own and their peers' work. You can read about some of this work  in the 'self and peer assessment' section. 

We are sceptical of approaches that are overly reliant on explicit criteria, seeing these as performing a limited function in learning. Instead our interest lies in developing ways of exploring and unpacking judgments made in assessment, and linking these to teaching. Our STEM Wishees website is an example of this more discursive and formative approach to assessment judgments (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). It shows teachers talking about pieces of student writing, pointing out particular features that they value or think could be improved and making comparisons between the different ways in which a task has been tackled. Explore the STEM Wishees site; view a similar example from Politics.

A further example: in these annotated extracts from a History essay you can see the subject teacher interacting with the Thinking Writing Advisor as a way to unpack his judgment of what the student has written. Two such annotated texts were shared with students in a workshop on the Exhibiting the First World War module. Its aim was to help students to think: Why bother to use evidence?, What counts as evidence in History and why/how would you use it?, How do you take a position? What does that involve?

More examples of our work on assessment and teaching are:

Improving students' collaborative writing in Environmental Hazards ( with the Geography department) and Taking stock of assessment practices across a School (with staff in Politics and International Relations).

Read more about our thinking on assessment, including our resistance to linking all writing to assessment. We are pleased to note that our perspective on assessment is in line with much of the current thinking endorsed by the Higher Education Academy.

"the marking of scripts, commonly held to be the dull obverse of teaching" (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990)

Documents you can download from this page: