Dr Richard Badge has used a formative assignment with his MSc Bioinformatics students over the last two years. The aim of the exercise is to help the students improve their writing and use citation and referencing correctly. The course combines molecular biology and programming, so the students need to be adaptable and able to write well to succeed on the molecular biology section of the course. Many are from overseas and working in English as a second language. The students are taught face to face in a lab with networking and use laptops provided by the course for their work.
The students submit short answer questions in a single document through blackboard to Turnitin. These are scanned for non-original text. Once the deadline for the piece of work has passed, the students are given a mark scheme, with detailed answers and grades. They use this in conjunction with the PeerMark system to mark another student’s paper. The students make sure that the work they submit is anonymous (no names on the paper itself in headers/titles/ filenames) and the papers are allocated to each student anonymously by the system.
The students work through the piece of work they have to mark in class on their laptops. Dr Badge stated that the formative assessment using PeerMark allowed the students to work through the marking at their own pace, allowing them ask questions of each other and him as they went along. This promoted in depth questions that related to the content of the answers and their interpretation. In previous years, working through the same exercise on paper was much more stilted and didactic.
Overall the PeerMark system offered several advantages over the paper based system:
- work was anonymised and distributed automatically
- students could work at their own pace
- promoted questions about content, understanding and interpretation over technical issues
- allowed all the students to see all the papers submitted once the marking was complete