How to implement subject-specific training and support

What knowledge and skills should subject-specific GTA assessment and feedback training emphasise? 

Marking and giving feedback can be a time-consuming task, especially in the beginning of a teaching career. Clarifying the expectations and the different aspects of the task can make it less time-consuming. In order to do so, there are a number of different things it is important to discuss with new markers. Training requirements can vary from subject to subject, but some of the most important things to emphasise are listed below. 

  • Give clear marking criteria and discuss the meaning of these. This is essential to ensuring consistency and fairness. It is also a good idea to link the marking criteria to the ILOs.
  • Discuss time-management and prioritisation (what strategies can be used when marking and what aspects should be prioritised when giving feedback)
  • Discuss how to justify marks and use phrasing that maps against the criteria and the marking scheme.
  • In many subjects, calibration is the biggest challenge for new markers. Discuss differences between essays on the higher and lower end of the marking scale (what distinguishes a B from a C etc.).

Suggested activities for marking and feedback training

  • Provide sample essays and get the participants to mark them, either individually or in groups. Discuss the marks that were given and reach an agreement. This will get new markers a better idea of calibration.
  • Discuss the essay questions give indications of what essays of different grades might include. If there are essay briefings, these can be discussed.
  • Discuss the marking criteria and the marking scheme and highlight important words that should be used in the feedback for essays of different grades.
  • Provide examples of useful and poor feedback and engage the participants in a discussion about it. Why is or isn’t it useful? Is it fair and constructive? Is the mark justified? Does the feedback map against the criteria and marking scheme? Does it give indications of how the student can improve in the future?
  • Get the participants to compose feedback to a sample essay in groups and discuss the feedback afterwards. How do the different groups’ feedback differ from each other? What are the most important things to focus on in feedback for the particular essay?
  • Engage current GTAs in a discussion about useful approaches and collect good advice and tips. How are different people approaching the task? What different strategies can you use?

Other things you can do to support GTAs in assessment and feedback

  • Make it clear to the GTAs who they should contact about different issues and how they should handle them (e.g. plagiarism, doubts about specific cases etc.).
  • Have regular team meetings. Team meetings help establish a sense of team and ensures that there is a designated time and place where questions can be answered.
  • Introduce rubrics and feedback proformas. Designing a good rubric requires some resources, but a simple feedback proforma can easily be introduced (read about the feedback proforma that was introduced in Geography and Earth Sciences here).
  • Provide essay briefings for each essay question (a short briefing, usually written by the person who wrote the question, which describes how the students are expected to answer the question). Along with moderation, briefings can help ensure consistency and quality across a board of markers (read about the use of essay briefings in History here).
  • Use Moodle as an open resource. If the course convenor or other senior staff teaching on the course makes sure that they mark a few essays at the very beginning, they can make these available to new markers as examples. This doesn’t require extra resources, but can make a big difference to new markers (read about how they did it in Geography and Earth Sciences here).
  • Give feedback to new markers as a part of the moderation process.

Have a look at the GTA case studies for more details about some of these suggestions.

Involve the GTAs

Ask the GTAs what they need when implementing training and support. In what areas do they need more support or training? What tasks do they feel confident doing and which ones less so? What kind of support and training would enable them to do their jobs better? 

It is worth involving on more senior GTAs when implementing or carrying out training and support. Having recently been in the position of a new GTA, they have useful and relevant advice for their peers and they will have good ideas for how to structure training or a workshop.