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Do you think lecturers are biased in marking essays? Watch

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    (Original post by Sisuphos)
    I take issue with the view that it's all "subjective" btw.
    Ditto. Although while the subject matter of degrees are definitely not subjective, marking very much is. Sadly. Even when people do everything they humanly can do to avoid it.
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    (Original post by Craghyrax)
    Again, as with the case above, I highly highly doubt that the correlation you are drawing there is significant. You might have felt that you formed a social connection with your marker, and you might well have done. But if you then got a good grade in that topic, you can't assume that your cameradie was the functional cause of that. It could have been a great many different things. For instance, your ability to connect with the marker might have reflected that you understood the material well and were engaging with it at a good level of depth, thereby enabling you to have enjoyable interaction with the teacher. Similarly you may well just be a sociable person and good at your academic work.
    I have had several students over the year who I absolutely adored, only to be really shocked and appalled when their work came in at the end of the semester. Believe me, their enthusiasm and engagement in class did jack all for the performance of their work.

    It's really frustrating to me to watch the kind of assumptions that people leap to about their marks. Think for a second who might be reading what you wrote here, and what you might have encouraged them to believe about their studies You can't schmooze your way to a first! :pinch:
    In theory this is all well and good, that your school has a bright and articulate team of markers, that stick to the rule book and grade strictly according to merit. However in practice, from the perspective of a student receiving marks, which have ranged from high firsts to fails, i can guarantee that this is not how it has seemed like for me.

    It says in the mark scheme, that an element should be given for originality of thinking, as well as coherence of argument. So then i have had a couple of lecturers in my final year, who's teaching was absolutely abismal. A combination of lack of experience/qualifications on their part, and the assumption that the onus is on the student to perform. However what you are forgetting, is that it is very difficult for a student to perform, if they have not been taught right.

    Sure the lecturer can 'fake' it, in that they can mark essays, correctly, without having taught them correctly. The thing is, this is not a levels, where it is simply enough to tell a class to read a chapter for homework and identify key themes. Or not even provide that level of input, instead providing a similar teaching input across three years of work, and then expecting presents to be handed out after the final presentation, and actually taking offence on any question of these modes. Both of which i have seen and been through.

    As i said already, it is all good and well that you have markers who do their job properly, but if the teaching input is not lacking, then the whole system falls down. One of these lecturers i had a problem with, even failed one of my friend's partners final year dissertation, because she couldn't appreciate the concept of irony in drama. Ergo this woman wrote a ironic drama, well referenced and playing to absurd drama, which is a tradition which goes back over a hundred years. And this marker failed it. Even though, she has been averaging a first up to that point. Now she can't even do a masters, with the 2.2 grade she finished with. How do you explain this?
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    (Original post by Sisuphos)
    I've written essays in my last year which were strongly critical of Marxism and my lecturer was a Marxist (got 74%). I've written an essay which was severely critical of positivism in politics even though my lecturer was a positivist (got 68% 'cos I'm a moron not 'cos he was hostile).
    Marxism isn't really the same as feminism, animal ethics, race and religion, as it isn't personal and it also has far more critics than supporters today. I would not expect a Marxism module to be taught by a Marxist in the same way that theology/philosophy or religion/gender modules are disproportionately taught by their adherents.

    And you may have got, say, 78% and 71% respectively. A lower mark doesn't mean a low mark - what I said was that perhaps you "would give a lower mark to someone who brilliantly critiqued your views than someone who brilliantly supported them?"

    (Original post by Sisuphos)
    I take issue with the view that it's all "subjective" btw.
    I agree not everything is, but that's a whole other can of worms!
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    (Original post by Craghyrax)
    ] As a University teaching assistant, yes all markers are biased :eyeball: We're human. It's impossible not to be.
    But a good many of us work our butts off to be as unbiased and fair as we possibly can. In fact, the thing that makes me hate marking the most is precisely because of how difficult it is to put a number on something as complicated as an essay. A numerical scale assumes that students are comparable to each other. To some degree they are, but there are also a huge amount of complete curveballs that they can throw at you. As a marker you have to make some difficult judgements about which particular features you feel are the most important from your students, and exactly how you weight all of these different factors. Lets say one student has shown that they have read and understood the material, but they fall flat when it comes to tying ideas together into a logical sequence, and some of the claims they make are based on misunderstandings about the theory they are covering. Then another student has a logical argument, but their written language is absolutely appalling and they've really done the bare minimum of reading. How does one weight all of these different features together? At my institution we have a marking scale that all markers use. It has five sections which roughly consist of: written language, coherence of argument, referencing, depth of understanding and reading, and critical awareness. Unfortunately the scale does not suggest how each of these components should be weighted in relation to one another (and to be fair to it, how could it?) Furthermore, the mark scheme is applied across the faculty at all levels. So regardless of which Humanities degree you study and which year you are in, this scheme will be utilised.
    The bottom line is that each marker has to use their own discretion about what really matters for the essay/assignment that is being assessed, and to make judgements about what can reasonably be expected from students for their degree level, among other things. The mark scheme might suggest that we look for critical reflection and understanding, but it is the marker in question who knows what that means in the context of the particular assignment they are assessing.
    Personally, my reference point was the cohort. I would read several essays for students on the same module (often 30 or 40). The marks I gave usually reflected how these students performed in relation to one another. In addition to this, we work in teams as markers. Borderline essays are seen by more than one person, and we routinely swap samples of our marking to others to try and calibrate the standards we apply as a department. And if two markers disagree they discuss their views and arrive at a compromise. Really marking is a fairly impossible task because - as mentioned - student assignments are not reducible to metrics. They are too complicated. But given those pragmatic problems, staff really do their utmost to be fair. And you should give them the benefit of the doubt.

    In terms of my own political biases..... lol... those don't factor at all. If I have an incredibly obnoxious right-wing student who asserts conclusions that I find objectionable, that student may very well receive an excellent grade from me if they have written clearly and logically, explained the reasoning behind every point they make in full, and have provided evidence for their claims. Honestly, most markers would weep for joy at seeing a well-written essay, regardless of what it's actually trying to say. If you're worried about the marks that you are getting, my advice is focus on being as clear and explicit as possible about what point you are making, why you think it, and why you believe that other human beings should agree with you. Then make sure that you have done the required reading, have followed the required referencing, have read your module guide, and - for the love of God - that you actually have command of decent grammar and written language. I would recommend putting every essay through Grammarly before handing it in. Do each of these things, and I guarantee that you will secure the goodwill of your marker, regardless of what nonsense you wish to spout in said essay or dissertation!

    PS: I have had to mark MA dissertations too, and the above is still true.


    Not my grades no; I'm teaching my first undergrad module at the end of this month so these thoughts naturally arose. I also watched a video of a journalist (Lauren Southern) who took a Women's Studies module and did a series of videos detailing the bias of the lecturer (and the rest of the class).

    During my research I've seen a disproportionate number of supporters rather than critics who teach modules like feminism, theology and animal ethics. You're right, I'm sure lecturers do their utmost to be fair but I do wonder about the sub-conscious bias in these sorts of personal subjects, particularly for religion where their faith actually prevents them from ever being persuaded in argument unless they denounce their religion.
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    (Original post by macromicro)
    Marxism isn't really the same as feminism, animal ethics, race and religion, as it isn't personal and it also has far more critics than supporters today. I would not expect a Marxism module to be taught by a Marxist in the same way that theology/philosophy or religion/gender modules are disproportionately taught by their adherents.

    And you may have got, say, 78% and 71% respectively. A lower mark doesn't mean a low mark - what I said was that perhaps you "would give a lower mark to someone who brilliantly critiqued your views than someone who brilliantly supported them?"



    I agree not everything is, but that's a whole other can of worms!
    Not sure what "it isn't personal" even means. Marxism is mostly ignored, it's not like there are are many critics of Marxism around. Nobody gives a ****.

    I don't see how religion in the UK isn't in the exact same, if not worse, position right now. Who takes it seriously in the academy? again, not because people are familiar with the Church Fathers and the Filloque and the Quran. It's just generally acknowledged that it's stupid. Nobody gives a ****.

    Regarding my grades, I can't know, and neither can anyone else, what an equally strong but pro-Marxist essay would've gotten. It's just baseless speculation. What I can say is that I found the lecturers to be open to discussion and very eager to be challenged and therefore see no reason to think that I should be disadvantaged to a significant extent. My essays were not good at all compared to other essays I had written and I regarded the marking as very lenient - but again, they might had been still more lenient if I was a Marxist or a positivist but I don't see how one might know that. All I have is evident of my previous performance in other essays plus the extent to which those professors were open to challege and discussion.
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    (Original post by Sisuphos)
    Not sure what "it isn't personal" even means. Marxism is mostly ignored, it's not like there are are many critics of Marxism around. Nobody gives a ****.
    If someone spends their free time praying in churches, reading a holy text, worshipping a personal God, having a religious lifestyle, etc. it is patently more personal and thus may lead to more bias. The influence of religion on a believer's personal life is far greater than the influence of Marxism on the personal life of a Marxist lecturer. Feminism is an identity and support of your personal rights as a woman; it is extremely personal to women as the topic revolves around themselves. Animal ethics is often taught by vegans, a personal dietary choice and a particular lifestyle, without which their life would be very different in that area.

    I think it's quite clear what I mean when I call these examples more personal and more susceptible to bias than adherence to a 19th century economic system.

    Your second point is precisely my own point - Marxism has more critics than supporters today and isn't a heated or topical debate. It's not remotely the same as the above examples which have dominated public discussion.

    (Original post by Sisuphos)
    I don't see how religion in the UK isn't in the exact same, if not worse, position right now. Who takes it seriously in the academy? again, not because people are familiar with the Church Fathers and the Filloque and the Quran. It's just generally acknowledged that it's stupid. Nobody gives a ****.
    Religion is one of the most debated topics today and has been the centre of current affairs for at least the past three decades. It's not at all generally acknowledged to be stupid since there are a small minority of non-believers in the world. I have no idea why you have limited it to the UK other than to make a redundant non-point.

    (Original post by Sisuphos)
    Regarding my grades, I can't know, and neither can anyone else, what an equally strong but pro-Marxist essay would've gotten. It's just baseless speculation.
    No, it's a discussion point based on people's experiences. I wasn't looking for an objective answer. It's something worth looking into I think.
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    (Original post by john2054)
    In theory this is all well and good, that your school has a bright and articulate team of markers, that stick to the rule book and grade strictly according to merit. However in practice, from the perspective of a student receiving marks, which have ranged from high firsts to fails, i can guarantee that this is not how it has seemed like for me.

    It says in the mark scheme, that an element should be given for originality of thinking, as well as coherence of argument. So then i have had a couple of lecturers in my final year, who's teaching was absolutely abismal. A combination of lack of experience/qualifications on their part, and the assumption that the onus is on the student to perform. However what you are forgetting, is that it is very difficult for a student to perform, if they have not been taught right.

    Sure the lecturer can 'fake' it, in that they can mark essays, correctly, without having taught them correctly. The thing is, this is not a levels, where it is simply enough to tell a class to read a chapter for homework and identify key themes. Or not even provide that level of input, instead providing a similar teaching input across three years of work, and then expecting presents to be handed out after the final presentation, and actually taking offence on any question of these modes. Both of which i have seen and been through.

    As i said already, it is all good and well that you have markers who do their job properly, but if the teaching input is not lacking, then the whole system falls down. One of these lecturers i had a problem with, even failed one of my friend's partners final year dissertation, because she couldn't appreciate the concept of irony in drama. Ergo this woman wrote a ironic drama, well referenced and playing to absurd drama, which is a tradition which goes back over a hundred years. And this marker failed it. Even though, she has been averaging a first up to that point. Now she can't even do a masters, with the 2.2 grade she finished with. How do you explain this?
    Do you think you would have graduated with a 2.1 had you not been on good terms with your lecturers?

    I certainly think it has helped to specifically avoid modules where I knew my views were strongly to the contrary of the lecturer and class. For example, there was a new module in final year on feminism taught by a female PhD student whose thesis was on male dominance in capitalism. There is more or less no chance at all that we would have agreed on the implications of this issue, and perhaps that we would be on less friendly terms than I would with someone I support. To me it's quite impossible that a PhD candidate whose work and interests revolve around this one inflammatory topic for three years of their life would not have some level of bias when teaching and marking the module.
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    (Original post by SophieSmall)
    We also have anonymous marking at my university so lecturers can't bias towards student they like or mark down students they don't like.
    What university do you go to?
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    now that i think of it , yes
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    (Original post by macromicro)
    Do you think you would have graduated with a 2.1 had you not been on good terms with your lecturers?

    I certainly think it has helped to specifically avoid modules where I knew my views were strongly to the contrary of the lecturer and class. For example, there was a new module in final year on feminism taught by a female PhD student whose thesis was on male dominance in capitalism. There is more or less no chance at all that we would have agreed on the implications of this issue, and perhaps that we would be on less friendly terms than I would with someone I support. To me it's quite impossible that a PhD candidate whose work and interests revolve around this one inflammatory topic for three years of their life would not have some level of bias when teaching and marking the module.
    It wasn't how well i got on with them, because i got the grade i did, through my work capacity.

    The fact that my mode average grade was in the 40-49% range, just goes to show that my few excellent grades i got, were really able to shift my grade average up.

    People, lecturers especially, make out that personal affect has no bearing on mark schemes, but this is a fallacy. .
 
 
 
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