No More Marking Webinar with Daisy Christodoulou
If someone asked you to guess their height, how accurate do you think your estimate would be? How about if two people asked you to say who was taller? Which question would you find easier to answer?
This highlights a crucial fact about humans, which is that we are not very good at making absolute judgements (estimating someone’s height). However, human beings are very good at making comparative judgements (comparing two people’s heights to see who is taller). In August this year, Teach Well were delighted to host an alumnus webinar, led by Daisy Christodolou of No More Marking, to learn a bit more about comparative judgement. Daisy highlighted this example as an analogy for how we currently assess students’ writing in English, and how this could be approached more effectively and efficiently through comparative judgement.
As a standard practice in English, each teacher marks their student’s writing responses using a marking rubrik, to assess whether the student’s writing meets the relevant standard set out. Some moderation may be done by groups of teachers, but around 95% of responses will only be seen by one teacher. Comparative judgement involves teachers comparing two students’ writing responses side-by-side and simply judging which one is better, left or right. This process (which takes about 20 seconds on average) is repeated multiple times by multiple teachers, so that all student responses are seen 20 times.
We know that the workload of English teachers is sky high, and marking is a large contributor to this, but what if it didn’t have to be? Instead of each teacher individually reading and marking each student’s writing, using an assessment rubrik, followed up by moderation, Daisy suggests comparing two pieces of writing to decide which one is better (in a much shorter time frame than traditional marking) and then repeating this several times. As a result, students’ writing is ranked and awarded a comparative score against all other students. This process has been proven to not only reduce the margin of error in marking, but also to significantly reduce the length of time needed to mark students’ work.
In this webinar, Daisy ran us through a simple demonstration of comparative judgement (available on the No More Marking website) and also assigned us some actual student responses to compare. After we completed the exercise, we looked at the level of accuracy we achieved in ranking and scoring these responses, and it turned out this bunch of novices did a great job, far better than the accuracy of large assessment organisations! Daisy led us through how to set comparative judgement up, upcoming Australian projects, the levels of membership available to schools (yes, there’s a free option), how to give effective whole-class feedback and how to teach good writing skills, based on common issues seen in thousands of student responses.
A secondary English teacher who attended the webinar said “This workshop was fantastic! Comparative judgement is such a logical and time-saving way of marking, and we should all be using it more. Daisy also provided some practical, easy to use methods for improving students’ writing that nicely align to the strategies taught in the Masterclass. The workload of an English teacher is always so high so anything we can do to lighten the load is something worth listening to!” Once again, we would like to thank Daisy for so generously sharing her time and expertise with us.
We will be following this up with another No More Marking webinar in early 2024, led by Jeanette Breen, who will introduce comparative judgement, and discuss the No More Marking Australian project launching in February 2024. Even if you already attended the webinar in August, you are more than welcome to attend this one too, particularly if you are interested in getting involved in the 2024 school year! You can register for the session here.