14. Marking practices: benchmarking and calibration

Benchmarking Practice 

14.1      Benchmarking is a process to promote consistent standards among multiple markers of a specific assessment. It should be used in appropriate cases prior to marking and moderation.

14.2      In large units it is common to have multiple markers of an assessment. In such cases, the possibility arises of misalignment across markers even where markers have been individually consistent. To encourage collective consistency and reduce the need for re-marking of scripts, benchmarking should be used as an important part of the overall quality assurance process.

14.3      A typical benchmarking exercise could involve all markers individually marking the same small selection of randomly chosen scripts (e.g. 5 scripts) and then agreeing how marks should be allocated against the marking criteria to inform marking of the remaining scripts. The number of scripts selected for such benchmarking will depend on the nature of the assessment. For example, where optional questions exist, it may be necessary to select a higher number of scripts than usual to ensure all questions are discussed in the benchmarking exercise. 

14.4      Benchmarking should take place before marking so should be arranged as soon as possible after an assessment has taken place. It is good practice to organise benchmarking meetings as part of the marking allocation within a school. 

Calibration Practice 

14.5      Calibration is the process to promote consistency of standards between institutions, units or academic years.

14.6      Some assessment types call for academics’ individual expert judgements. Internal calibration helps markers across and within programmes to develop shared understanding of academic judgement across different assessments, units or academic years.  The purpose of calibration is to enhance and share good academic practice amongst markers rather than ensuring consistent standards for a particular cohort of students.

14.7      Internal calibration exercises can take many forms but often involve a group of academics reviewing a small sample of anonymous student assessments before discussing the decision-making behind hypothetical marks and feedback. Unlike benchmarking, internal calibration exercises are not intended to agree a ‘correct’ mark or prepare teams for marking particular assessments. Nor are they best used to identify deviations from norms to be corrected. Rather, periodic internal calibration exercises help academics develop their individual judgement through knowledge of how other experts might approach a broadly similar scenario. In that sense, the use of internal calibration recognises that robust individual academic judgement arises from participation in a community of expert assessors who periodically reflect on their decision-making. Likewise good practice in feedback is encouraged and facilitated by reflecting on the marking of student work by other experts. 

14.8      Faculties / schools should have processes in place that allow programme teams to develop a shared understanding of marking criteria and exercise their individual academic judgment with knowledge of how others might exercise that judgment in broadly similar scenarios.