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‘Development and evaluation of a partially-automated approach to the assessment of undergraduate mathematics’

Next month I will present at the 8th British Congress of Mathematics Education, the “largest mathematics and mathematics education conference in the UK” which “brings together teachers from early years to higher education, researchers, teacher educators, CPD providers, consultants, policy makers, examiners and professional and academic mathematicians”, according to its website.

My talk is part of the research strand of the conference, organised by the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics. This society is “for people interested in research in mathematics education”, and I am a member.

I’m presenting the ‘what I did’ portion of my PhD; well, most of it. Anyway, the peer-reviewed proceedings have now been published. My article is ‘Development and evaluation of a partially-automated approach to the assessment of undergraduate mathematics‘. The abstract is below.

This research explored assessment and e-assessment in undergraduate mathematics and proposed a novel, partially-automated approach, in which assessment is set via computer but completed and marked offline. This potentially offers: reduced efficiency of marking but increased validity compared with examination, via deeper and more open-ended questions; increased reliability compared with coursework, by reduction of plagiarism through individualised questions; increased efficiency for setting questions compared with e-assessment, as there is no need to second-guess the limitations of user input and automated marking. Implementation was in a final year module intended to develop students’ graduate skills, including group work and real-world problem-solving. Individual work alongside a group project aimed to assess individual contribution to learning outcomes. The deeper, open-ended nature of the task did not suit timed examination conditions or automated marking, but the similarity of the individual and group tasks meant the risk of plagiarism was high. Evaluation took three forms: a second-marker experiment, to test reliability and assess validity; student feedback, to examine student views particularly about plagiarism and individualised assessment; and, comparison of marks, to investigate plagiarism. This paper will discuss the development and evaluation of this assessment approach in an undergraduate mathematics context.

Rowlett, P., 2014. Development and evaluation of a partially-automated approach to the assessment of undergraduate mathematics. In: S. Pope (ed.). Proceedings of the 8th British Congress of Mathematics Education. pp. 295-302. Available via:

Edit 28/03/2014: It seems these papers were released early in error, and have now been removed. The page on the BSRLM website says “The proceedings will be available here after 14 Apr 2014”.

Edit 24/04/2014: The papers have now appeared on the BSRLM website. I have reinstated the links in this post. The page numbers are different from those reported previously.

(will not be published)

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