How to make a comparison?

docent die vergelijking maakt van studentenwerken

How to make a comparison?

As a teacher, you spend quite a bit of your time grading student work. But now you want to get started with comparative judgement. What does this mean concretely? What should you think about when you make a comparison? We give a few tips.

Holistic comparison is thinking differently

In most cases, you will be used to using your assessment form or rubric as a guide when assessing. These can vary in level of detail. Analytical rubrics are quite elaborate to assess every aspect of an assignment. In other cases, you might use a more holistic assessment where some room for interpretation remains and an explanation from you as the teacher is needed.

When comparing, we take the holistic assessment even further. All you do when you assess comparatively is determine which of the two works is better. Nothing else. So if you are used to looking at the assignment from different criteria, it is also important to let go of this. A common pitfall is that you still read or see the work per criterion and then check per criterion whether one work is better than the other. You now assess the work not as a whole but in pieces, which is precisely not the intention. You can let go of the subdivision altogether. All that remains is to determine the work with the best quality. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time, practice makes perfect.

Trust your expertise

For much of your teaching time, you did your best to use the assessment criteria or rubric as objectively as possible. If the rubric fits well with your own idea of quality then this is quite convenient, but sometimes it may have taken more effort. In the latter case, the rubric might have led to assessments that you disagreed with from your professional judgement.

If you go into comparative judgement, you make a judgement based on your expertise. And yes, there is a bit of subjectivity to that. Maybe you have a specific part of the assignment that you value more than your colleagues. That’s okay. Your colleagues, in turn, place that value on other parts. These judgements all average out in the many comparisons you make together. Through comparative judgement, we use the diversity of assessors as a force to get all aspects of the assignment right. In doing so, we still remain reliable and valid.

Sometimes comparing takes very little time

Just having to decide which work is better also means that a comparison can sometimes take very little time. We all know examples of assignments where you can immediately see that there is still a lot to be done. If this work stands next to a well-constructed one, you might only need five seconds to make your judgement. It’s possible! The principle of comparative judgement makes that you see an assignment more than once. So you will see the same work again in a comparison with a work of similar quality. In that case, you will look at the work in more detail before making your choice. And your peers will also see the work again in their comparisons. So don’t worry, every work will get enough attention.

Don’t use a rubric when comparing

If you are a new teacher in a subject, or if you do not have much experience yet, it might be difficult to start comparing without a rubric or assessment criteria. Do you want to put the rubric next to the comparison first? Don’t! As soon as you do, you go back to analytical assessment and might as well stop comparing. In this case, make sure in advance that you have a sufficient picture of the assignment and the different quality levels. Go ahead and compare an example round with your colleagues and discuss the examples with each other. This will make it clear what is meant by quality. You can certainly write down these quality criteria in a document that you can then use as a guide to give feedback (but not to assess!). Tip: also compare sample works with students to promote quality awareness among them.

Really can’t choose?

Are two works so similar in quality that you don’t know which one is better? Then first ask yourself: Are you really sure they are equivalent, or do you feel that one is better but can’t articulate why? In the latter case, you still choose the work that is better in your opinion. You really don’t know? Then make a choice and rely on the fact that these works will come back in different comparisons and with other assessors. If your colleagues also find the choice difficult, some of them will find one work of better quality, and others will find the other one. This way, the works end up at an equal place in the ranking.

Great, the comparing is over! But how do you come to a decision such as a pass or grades? Read more here or contact us.

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