Problems of assessment

Jim Freeman, Bland Tomkinson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Learning about resolving complex problems means that modes of assessment become less deterministic – real world problems rarely pop up in a form that can be readily solved by an equation or two. This often means the use of projects, portfolios and dissertations. Even simple mathematical problems can give rise to differences of opinion in marking but in the case of the less structured assessments – where answers may be ‘better’ or ‘worse’ rather than ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – the assessment issues are much more stark. When classes are large and the number of assessors equally substantial there are issues of reliability. In, for example sustainability education in its broadest sense, it is important to grasp the complex nature of the ‘wicked’ problems that this involves. This inevitably means coping with problems for which there is no defined answer. Part of this can involve learning to work collectively on an issue and the assessment concern then becomes one of marking group assignments and, possibly, the use of peer assessment. Part of it may also involve the use of individual portfolios or reflective logs and these pose a different type of concern. In many cases there can also be an individual project and the question of marking individual project reports or dissertations is a vexed one. This paper looks at some of the issues around the reliability of assessment in such circumstances and uses a large sample, drawn from the marking of Masters dissertations in a related area, to examine issues of double marking. This study suggests a wide disparity between individual markers and that the practice of using a third marker, when the disparity in an individual case falls outside a given range, does not necessarily improve reliability
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
EventInternational Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE-2011) - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Duration: 21 Aug 201126 Aug 2011


ConferenceInternational Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE-2011)
CityBelfast, Northern Ireland


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