Assessment outcomes : factors influencing the distribution of marks
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Assessment is an integral and crucial part of university education. Much research has been reported on its different forms, its outcomes, and the means of maximising its reliability and accuracy. Assessment outcomes must meet the needs of several diverse groups of internal and external stakeholders. Students require suitable grades and expect equity and reliability of marks. Employers require evidence of competency. Assessment statistics are a health indicator for courses; they impact community and professional perception of courses and graduates, and are key to teachers’ performance management. Universities use assessment statistics as an input into rankings and they even impact the institution’s "brand". Such a diverse range of objectives of assessment outcomes may therefore generate conflicting forces which can impact the statistical distributions of marks.This paper is an exploratory study to determine the factors influencing the marks distribution patterns of a series of 37 units delivered as part of a logistics course over a period of 18 months. It finds clear factors such as quality of student intake, methods of delivery and differences in teaching and content all influence the patterns, but there are statistical indicators of more subtle influences, generated by the needs of the stakeholders. It also leads to clear directions of further research and a possible model, which focuses on organisational culture, policies and motivations of assessors and the assessment process and their interaction.
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