Fury Friday: Essay marking should be anonymized

Every Friday, I'll be jumping on the soapbox and letting rip into the things of the week that have annoyed the living daylights out of me. This week: anonymous essay marking
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Every Friday, I'll be jumping on the soapbox and letting rip into the things of the week that have annoyed the living daylights out of me. Think of a dumbed down version of Peter Griffin's 'Grind my Gears'.


With universities charging through the roof for tuition fees and putting students in even more debt, one can ask whether the quality of the marks received in their final degrees are justified, fair and non-discriminatory.

To quell the myth that universities are fair and objective, marking and those who mark while highly trained as academics and set by their institutions' policy, are entirely subjective.

Student colleagues of mine are aware of the lack of consistency in their marks, myself included. It is difficult to prove unethical behaviour on the part of staff who mark essays and coursework, but is agreed by students in my university at least that the subjectivity of marking is an issue.

There have been times where I have spent the final night before a deadline storming out an essay, knowing full well that it was below the accepted word count, the references were sloppy and the arguments were not clearly defined. Yet, when the results came through, I was awarded a mark grossly out of proportion for the work that I had put in. I argued the case with my seminar leader, questioned their academic integrity and appealed for a lower mark.


Another myth is of the professionalism by members of staff and their attitudes towards sleeping with students. It works both ways, and staff and students do on occasion sleep together. Seminar leaders and associate lecturing staff are often postgraduate students themselves and engage in similar social settings, events, venues and social networks.

To be marked up because of sexual relations or lack of objectivity towards friends or associates through social settings has been noted by several of my student colleagues. Others, however, who are outspoken in politics seminars citing particular winged views which did not resonate with the seminar leader - also the core lecturer in the topic - showed a clear reduction in marks compared to others.

Exams in some institutions are anonymised by individual exam numbers, unique to each student. As essays and coursework are required to be typed, handwriting of students' is unknown to staff. Exams on the other hand are handwritten.

But while no connection can be made between handwritten text and typed essays, messy handwritten exam papers or those suffering with dyslexia may be indistinguishable and marked down as a result.

Anonymous marking would allow fairer marks and less discrimination. By assigning a unique number value to each paper, where by students are not identifiable by name, would be an effective solution. Turnitin, the online plagiarism software, could also be used in settings to anonymise submitted papers.

Essay, coursework and exam marking is too subjective. Anonymising submissions reduces the risk of discrimination, and results in fairer marks for the student and greater respect for the insitution of higher education.


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