Friday, 10 August 2012

PeerMark use for Peer Review in Biblical Studies

Copyright University of Sheffield

We recently shot a quick video chat with the Departmental Administrator for Biblical Studies; Alison Bygrave. Alison very kindly lets us in on the benefits, challenges and top tips for using PeerMark successfully for peer review...hope you enjoy..

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Using GradeMark in The Institute for Life Long Learning (TILL)

Copyright University of Sheffield


This activity - using GradeMark for student assignments - is part of a process to make it quicker and easier to give marks and feedback to students on their assignments.

TILL runs part-time degrees for mature students and all the teaching is in the evenings. Students are normally only on campus for timetabled classes and many travel long distances to attend. They are often in full-time employment and have many other demands on their time. TILL also has many part-time tutors teaching classes, and these staff also are only on campus for timetabled sessions.

Therefore we need a system that enables us to work and communicate remotely. MOLE is used for this with most assignments submitted electronically via MOLE, and all tutors encouraged to feedback via MOLE. There are several different ways in which assignment feedback can be given in MOLE; these have been tested and GradeMark is the preferred option.

 Intended Outcomes 

The intention was to find find the most effective way of providing feedback and marks via MOLE. This should be something that is liked by both the tutors and by the students.



The main issue was to 'sell' this to the tutors. Many prefer to work with paper copies of assignments and to provide feedback on a paper form or on a Word version of the paper form. This leads to inefficiencies, not least in the wide variety of practices, and also could be very difficult at exam board times when copies or work and the marks had to be collated. TILL tends to assess via coursework of various types, not by formal examination so there is a lot of paperwork involved.

 Established Practice

 Ways of getting marks and feedback to students varies a lot in TILL:
* handwritten on a paper form and one copy returned to students
 * typed on a Word version of the paper form and one copy returned to students
* typed on a Word version of the form and uploaded to MOLE
* typed directly into MOLE
* audio recording uploaded into MOLE
* marking grid completed and a paper copy given to students
* marking grid completed uploaded to MOLE
* GradeMark used

The Turnitin advantage 

 All suitable material is submitted via Turnitin for the IT & Organisations modules. This has been the case for some years. Students normally have about a month in which to submit and they can submit as many times as they like.

We use Turnitin as a tool to increase their understanding of proper referencing practice. Student feedback on this has been positive as they like the fact that their work can be checked and caerless mistakes found. It also has had the unexpected result that they meet their deadlines more often.

As they are submitting to Turnitin anyway, it seemed sensible to try GradeMark for their feedback. The other methods listed can get very untidy and you can spend a long time creating files and uploading them. It can be quite easy to give a student someone else's feedback file. Typing feedback directly into the MOLE Grade Centre is difficult as you only have a small area to type in and still need a copy of the work open to view, so there's lots of swapping between windows.

 The advantage of GradeMark is that it can be used just as I would use a paper copy - I can make brief comments on it as I read it and then go back and create fuller feedback in the right-hand box while I have the assignment in view on the left. The brief comments can be created and saved so that they can be used in other assignments - just dropped into the appropriate part of the assignment.

This has cut down on the amount of time it takes to do the 'mechanical' part of the marking and students have said how much they like the small comments scattered about their assignments - it gives them much more insight as to where they have gonbe wrong/could improve.

 Key points for effective practice 

  • GradeMark makes marking and feedback easier and quicker, so your feedback is potentially better. 
  •  GradeMark is liked by students as it helps them focus on assignment details that could be improved. 
  •  Turnitin is an excellent tool for making students understand about referencing and quoting. 
  • Disadvantage - you do need Internet access. 
  • Risk - not everyone may like working with GradeMark. 
  • Risk - occasionally the mark given in GradeMark hasn't fed back into the MOLE Grade Centre. 


Conclusions and Recommendations 

Personally I prefer using GradeMark to any other method; it has cut down considerably on the time taken over feedback. I feel that I can give better feedback to students because I only need to make comments and provide a mark, I don't need to spend time creating files and moving them about. Verity Brack Programme Director (and lecturer) for BSc IT & Organisations

So far, I am the only tutor on the course using GradeMark although I know some of my colleagues in TILL use it. In 2012-13 all my tutors will be asked to try it out and see if it makes their marking more efficient.

Verity Brack
Programme Director (and lecturer) for BSc IT & Organisations

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Civil and Structural Engineering: Designing the Civil Engineering Skills Module

Copyright University of Sheffield


The Civil Engineering Skills module is taught throughout the 1st year of undergraduate studies; as such it sets the scene for students’ experience of university life. The module itself has very little technical content, instead focusing upon developing some of the skills that the students will need during their time at university. The Civil Engineering Skills module covers many topics including:
  • Hand drawing (technical and sketching)
  • Use of computer aided drawing packages (specifically AutoCAD)
  • Use of MOLE for assessments and assignments
  • Group working (both inter & intra disciplinary)
  • Presentation of information (drawings and posters)
  • An introduction to Computer Programming (specifically Matlab)
  • Surveying (including fieldwork elements)

The course itself is designed around giving a sense of what it is to be an Engineer, from working through ideas, to effectively communicating those ideas and then on to the precision elements of design which include surveying and numeracy (Matlab).

One skill which has been included at key points in the module is the element of peer assessment. This is a skill in itself and as such needs some introduction so that the students get the most out of the experience.

 In previous years elements of peer assessment have been used with varying degrees of success in the assessment of the technical drawing elements, but due to logistical and time issues caused by the increased student numbers - 120 in 2009/10 vs 170 in 2010/11 and 165 in 2011/12, has had to be rethought. The restructuring of the module for this year gave me an opportunity to totally rethink the way we deliver the elements which were perhaps not as successful as they could have been in the past.

Intended outcomes 

  •  To increase student engagement with assessment criteria
  •  To develop students reviewer and self reflection skills
  •  To Illustrate that the ability to review drawings is an integral part of being a practicing engineer

The challenges 

  • Increased student numbers
  • Lack of current student engagement with assessment criteria and feedback
  • Potential for high administration workload with paper based peer review
  • PeerMark Training
  • PeerMark only accepting textual input: PeerMark is not designed to accept drawings
  • Cannot use any of the plagiarism tools to check against the literature or between students


 Established practice

 Current practice in the technical drawing area of the module contained elements of peer assessment (paper based) but PeerMark had not before been used in previous iterations of the module.

 The Turnitin advantage 

 The students did certainly seem more aware of what was required as they had to engage with the assessment criteria during the peermark exercise. Once the initial issues were overcome with setting up the assignment, the assessment ran very smoothly, with only a couple of issues with the students being able to upload their drawings. The main objective of this task was in feedback, so at the very least students understood what was required, this however does not always equate to the students actually acting on this feedback before resubmitting the final drawing.

 Key points for effective practice

 As with most new systems, there needs to be a level of support given to the students prior to them doing the peer assessment:

  • Training in the use of the permark software (done in a lecture)- this was really just basic access and use issues.
  • Discussions on what Peer Assessment actually is along with a clicker fueled session so as a class the students could grade examples of work and we could discuss their assessment against what my own would have been. This led to the students not only understanding the marking criteria but also how I interpret them. 
  • Supporting web pages to guide students through the peermark system and to provide guidance on the types of comments that can be used. this is integrated with the assessment criteria. Test the system before you make it live. It took a bit of work to get Peermark to accept drawings but ultimately the time saved was much greater.

Conclusions and recommendations 

In projects where students can submit work work without fully engaging with the assessment criteria (and hence the the learning objectives) it can be very difficult to give feedback. If students do not understand what is required they find it very difficult to meaningfully interpret feedback comments. The main advantage with Peermark is that it forces the students to engage with the assessment criteria, and hopefully by marking other students work, can then use the experience to improve their own work.

 Dr Sam Clarke
Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering