What is Anonymous Grading?

  • 3 Min Read

Read on to learn how anonymous grading enforces academic integrity by keeping instructors honest.

From K-12 to higher ed and even in corporate training, assessment is increasingly moving online. Whether it’s deterring cheating during student exams or eliminating implicit biases in grading, enforcing academic integrity online is becoming a vital priority for educators. This post, which lifts the veil on anonymous grading, is the third in a series on how technology is keeping learners honest online.

When it comes to assessments, enforcing academic integrity isn’t just about deterring student from cheating, it’s about keeping assessors honest too. Anonymous grading is an effective tool for keeping instructors on the straight and narrow.

Anonymous grading addresses the issue of assessors’ implicit biases. Conscious or unconscious, biases can change the way instructors grade assessments, be they small assignments or large exams, and that can have a significant impact on the learning experience and student success, even years later.

A study published in 2015 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, revealed that elementary school teachers’ biases can discourage girls from pursuing math and science in school and beyond. Researchers studied three groups of students from sixth grade to the end of high school, giving them two versions of exams across different subjects – one graded by teachers who knew their names and another graded by teachers who didn’t. In math, the girls scored better in the exam that was graded anonymously, whereas the boys scored better in the exam that wasn’t.

The bias, however, wasn’t detected for tests in non-math and science subjects, such as English and Hebrew. Researchers found that teachers were underestimating the girls’ abilities in math and science while overestimating the boys’, and it affected how the students felt about the subjects going forward.

“The existence of implicit bias in grading is undeniable – that’s a robust result in the social psychology and educational literature,” says Dr. James Colliander, CEO and Founder of digital grading platform Crowdmark, a D2L partner. “Anonymizing grading eliminates the source of implicit bias and makes the process of evaluating learning outcomes fair to all students.”

How anonymous grading works

Typically, anonymous grading has involved physically taking apart paper-based exams and handing out individual pages, minus identity information, to a group of markers who, together in a room, each tackle a question before passing the assessment on. The exams are then reassembled, the scores collected, and the results tabulated. Not all institutions have the peoplepower and resources available to oversee an involved grading process like that.

Luckily, technology has made anonymous grading easier than ever. Digital grading platforms have streamlined the process, eliminating the logistics involved in dealing with mountains of paper while protecting student privacy.

How anonymous grading works in the digital age

Instructors login to an online grading platform that’s ideally integrated into a learning environment, and upload digital or paper-based assessments. Students can access and complete the assessment remotely, downloading, printing if necessary and completing them in class or at home.

Next, students scan and upload the completed assessment to the platform for grading. Their identity information, which is only written on the front page, is stored in a separate location from where grading takes place, and a unique tracking code, like a QR code, is applied to the rest of their assessment.

After being uploaded by students, the platform breaks the assessment down into its individual questions. Instructors can grade questions individually or in collaboration with other graders –as many as they like. They can all grade different questions simultaneously, wherever and whenever they like, without knowing the students’ identities. After grading is complete, the platform tabulates the final score.

Instructors can email or use the LMS to redistribute assessments with results to students, readily creating an almost instantaneous, fair feedback loop.

“That’s driving curriculum innovation,” says Colliander. “There’s absolutely an improvement to learning outcomes with enriched, improved feedback that comes back faster to students, as well as subsequent data analysis that allows for insights into the performance of grading teams.”

At the end of the day, anonymous grading is about leveling the playing field. By ensuring fairness, not only does it improve the learning experience for all students, but it also gives every student the opportunity to thrive.

It also allows institutions to demonstrate to students and stakeholders their commitment to a fair process through which assessments are delivered with the highest integrity.

Watch this video to see how anonymous grading works in D2L’s Brightspace.

 

Click here to learn about 6 benefits of online proctoring tools.

Click here to learn about the rise of biometrics in education.

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