Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Wide Margins for Error

In the latest round of marking, I’ve noticed that one of my students has submitted an essay with these almost ludicrously wide margins. It’s a good essay, and comfortably long enough for the assignment, so I don’t believe they were trying to make their work look longer than it is – my guess is that they’re trying to provide more room for my comments, which have a tendency to scrawl around the borders and dwindle to illegibility when the margins are small. Wide margins as an iatrogenic consequence of a pedagogical – or, in this case, feedback – style…

This round of marking has also gotten me thinking about random patterns in student assessment: you occasionally get these long runs of papers at a similar level of quality – this time around, my marking started with a very long run of papers that had really struggled with the assignment; last time, my marking started with a series of excellent papers. I know from experience that, as you move through the bulk of the marking, the results eventually begin to distribute more normally. Nevertheless, it’s hard to prevent some anxiety when you hit these long runs at the beginning – was the assignment massively too easy? much too difficult? There’s a strong temptation to search for meaning in the data before the picture is complete…

On a more administrative note: the site is open again for comments, but may still be periodically up and down for the next little bit. If anyone notices any odd issues, feel free to post about them here.

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