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Examiners annotations: practice and purpose

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Crisp, Vicki 
Johnson, Martin 


The processes of reading and writing are recognised to be inextricably intertwined. Writing helps to support cognitive demands made upon the reader whilst processing a text (e.g., O'Hara, 1996; Benson, 2001). Examiners annotate scripts whilst marking (e.g., underlining, circling, using abbreviations or making comments) and this may reflect the cognitive support for comprehension building that annotations can provide. There is also some existing evidence that annotations might act as a communicative device in relation to accountability and that annotating might have a positive influence on markers' perceptions and affect their feelings of efficacy.

This research investigated the use of annotations during marking and the role that annotations might be playing in the marking process. Six mathematics GCSE examiners and six business studies GCSE examiners who had previously been standardised to mark the paper were recruited. Examiners initially marked ten scripts which were then reviewed by their Team Leader. Examiners then marked a further 46 (Business Studies) or 40 (Mathematics) scripts.

The examiners later attended individual meetings with researchers. The session began with each examiner marking a small number of new scripts to re-familiarise themselves with the examination paper and mark scheme. A researcher then observed each examiner as they continued marking a few further scripts. Each examiner was interviewed about their use of annotations.

The findings portray a clear sense that markers in both subjects believed that annotating performed two distinct functions. The first appeared to be justificatory, communicating the reasons for their marking decisions to others. This mirrors the statutory requirements for awarding bodies to establish transparent, accountable procedures which ensure quality, consistency, accuracy and fairness. The second purpose was to support their thinking and marking decisions. In addition to helping markers with administrative aspects of marking (for example, keeping a running tally of marks), there are claims that annotations also support higher order reading comprehension processes.



Marking, Evaluation of assessment

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Research Matters

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Research Division, Cambridge University Press & Assessment

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