Audit highlights uni's grading inconsistency

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 26/03/2014

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An academic audit of Massey University has highlighted inconsistencies in grading practices across the institution's five colleges.

The audit is the first of the Academic Quality Agency's (AQA's) cycle 5 academic audits of New Zealand universities.

The AQA said in its report, issued yesterday, it was pleased to see the momentum sustained since its last audit in 2008.

However, it found "that implementation of several aspects of teaching and learning across colleges and across different delivery modes and sites is inconsistent".

"In part this inconsistency relates to individual staff choice and in part to variation in implementation of institutional policies and practices across colleges."

It said differing grading practices, approaches to stakeholder engagement and approaches to academic decision making risked undermining academic quality if there was not a shared consensus on desired standards.

"The panel recommends that the university as a matter of urgency undertakes an assessment of grading practices across the university with an objective of removing inconsistency in grading practices both within and between colleges and ensuring equivalence of marks and grades between different programmes."

Among the positives highlighted in the report, the AQA has commended the university for its extensive range of learning support services across campuses, and for its systematic framework for recognising excellent teaching.

Massey spokesman James Gardiner said there were no surprises in the report, as the recommendations had been identified in a self-review as areas needing enhancement and improvement.

"Maintaining consistencies across college and campuses - and modes of learning - is part of the nature of a large university," he said.

"In regard to variations in grading practices, the university takes equity seriously, but no single grading approach is without its issues."

Massey constantly reviewed its practices around assessment and constructive alignment.

"Award of grades is subject to moderation and scrutiny by examinations committees to ensure that equity is maintained and students receive appropriate information about their performance."

He said the report referred to aeogrotats as an example of academic decision making. The university's aegrotat and impaired performance regulations were reviewed in 2012 and new guidelines for staff were about to be launched and addressed the issue raised in the report.

"There will always be areas that can be improved on. That is why we review our processes and performance, seek feedback from students, staff and other stakeholders and welcome the audit process that gives us an independent perspective," he said.

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The AQA panel has made four commendations, six affirmations and 17 recommendations.

"We have welcomed the report and will invite staff to provide feedback, develop appropriate initiatives to address the recommendations, consult further on those and provide a progress report to the AQA in a year's time," Mr Gardiner said.

- Manawatu Standard

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