Cognitive influences shaping grade decision-making

Published date01 April 2019
Date01 April 2019
AuthorIan Pownall,Victoria Kennedy
Subject MatterEducation,Curriculum, instruction & assessment,Educational evaluation/assessment
Cognitive inuences shaping
grade decision-making
Ian Pownall
Department of Business and Finance,
University of Chester Faculty of Business, Chester, UK, and
Victoria Kennedy
Department of Geography and Environmental Science,
Liverpool Hope University Faculty of Science, Liverpool, UK
Purpose The purpose of this study is to explore the inuences that shape the intention of a grading decision
at the point at which it is made. This can be particularly important when thoseinuences may vary during th e
marking process making reective analyses also difcult to explore.
Design/methodology/approach The authors draw upona small sample of assessed scripts from two
UK higher educational institutions and undertakea factor analysis of potentially important inuences that
shape the gradingdecision at the cognitive point it is made.
Findings The authorsndings indicate that for the sample analysed, the markers most important
inuences were those associated withthe normative view of marking, although they also suggest potential
inuencesfrom when the script was graded and the fatigue of the marker concerned.
Research limitations/implications The work is connedto management students and limitedby the
sample size. A factoranalysis reveals the cluster of inuences that contributeto observedgrade outcomes but
provides less clarityupon relative inter-dependencies between those factors.There are additional constraints
in that the constructeddata collection tool was self-administered.
Practical implications The data collection instrument(VBA Excel workbook) is, the authors believe,
quite innovativein capturing immediate cognitive reections. It couldbe developed for other decision-making
research. The authors also believe there are staff developmental outcomes from the work, to sustain and
enhanceassurance in the grading process.
Originality/value As far as the authors can determine, research that has explored the inuences shaping
grading and mark allocation tends to be reective or undertaken after the event. The authorsresearch data are
constructed at the same time as the grade/mark is determined.
Keywords Decision making, Bias, Cognition, Theory of planned behaviour, Inuences, Grading,
Paper type Research paper
As with many other tertiary-level educationprocesses and institutions, the assessment and
marking process in higher educational institutions (HEI) has comeunder increased scrutiny
from an instrumental perspective of education (Olsen, 2007:Attwood, 2008). If as this view
proposes, educations role is to be an engine of national economic growth, then it needs to
offer sufcient and appropriate skills, knowledge and competences to address an assumed
convergence between the goals of individuals and those of a post-industrial economy and
society (Johnston and Watson, 2004:Williams, 2008). From this perspective, educational
aims are focused upon competenceacquisition by individuals.
Received17 April 2018
Revised10 July 2018
Accepted13 July 2018
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.27 No. 2, 2019
pp. 166-178
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-04-2018-0040
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