A tricky task for teachers: assessing pre-university students’ research reports

A tricky task for teachers: assessing pre-university students’ research reports

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A tricky task for teachers: assessing pre-university students’ research reports

In England, some students preparing for university conduct independent research and write up lengthy reports which may contribute to nationally recognised qualifications.This provides an opportunity to investigate a specialist subject in depth, to cross boundaries with an inter-disciplinary enquiry, or to explore a novel non-school subject.However, multi-faceted challenges arise when assessment schemes are designed to reward generic research skills rather than subject knowledge. We investigated the ,feasibility of applying a single mark scheme, rewarding generic research skills, to research reports covering diverse topics. The study involved fifteen teachers with varied subject specialisms from a range ofsecondary schools across England. All teachers were currently or soon to be supporting 16-19 year olds to conduct independent research. Additionally, an experienced Chief Examiner participated. Each teacher received an identical sample of twenty diverse 5000- word research reports. The teachers marked the reports using a Cambridge Pre-U mark scheme that rewarded generic skills in analysis, evaluation, and communication, anduniquely, intellectual challenge. They also completed a questionnaire.We present new findings relating to marking reliability and teachers’, perceptions of the marking process. We discuss the implications for designing assessments of student ,research projects, and their relevance to other countries with similar challenges.

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