Assessment reviews: “Don’t bother; it doesn’t change anything”

This article was published in Catalyst

Assessments can be regraded; your marks are not set in stone.

Indeed, as the end of semester comes around and assessments are marked, scribbled on, ticked, crossed, covered in red pen and—hopefully—constructive feedback, it can be a time of angst.

Grades are seldom what we want, but what happens when they are not what we feel we deserve? What recourse options are available to students?

Catalyst has been told, by one first year, when it comes to having assessments regraded they were advised by a tutor: “Don’t bother; it doesn’t change anything”.

According to Steven Boucher, a RUSU student rights officer, this advice “could be taken to be intimidatory or a statement of disrespect”.

First year journalism student Madeleine Jackal would also disagree. She recently had an assessment reviewed by a course co-ordinator and Jackal’s grade was taken from a credit to a distinction. But her grade was not her main concern.

Jackal told Catalyst the review was less about wanting a higher mark and more about receiving constructive feedback.

“I wanted to get feedback on why I was graded the way I was,” she said. “A friend… he told me to go to the RUSU website where I found an ‘Appeal Against Assessment’ letter. I just copied the format and emailed it to my lecturer seeking a time to discuss my assessment. So easy!”

Jackal said the process was a success.

“I’ve never seen so many red pen marks—which I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” she said. “I always want to know how I can improve, so if she hadn’t given me what I felt was adequate feedback, I would’ve just told her that I needed more! If she said she didn’t have time to give me any more feedback, I would’ve gone back to RUSU for plan B.”

So what path should a student take to have their grades reviewed?

Boucher told Catalyst students should put their complaint in writing.

“Try to be objective,” he said. “It’s a terrible idea to personalise things. It’s usually a bad idea to start an argument with an academic.”

Boucher stressed that in a university the size of RMIT, there is not going to be a one size fits all. He also advises students to do their homework, “slow down” and “don’t start a fight”.

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