Kirori Mal College
A Note on Moderation of Internal Assessment Marks by the University
1. At the moment, we are unaware of the modalities by which internal assessment is moderated by the university, i.e., in which cases moderation is done, what is the method of moderation and whether such criteria and methods are followed for all cases or selectively. This is unacceptable because it creates confusion among students who feel aggrieved when their marks are moderated and we cannot explain why and in what manner it has been done. There is also a feeling that such moderation is being done selectively.
Therefore all modalities of moderation must be transparent and known to the teachers and students and should be practiced uniformly for all cases.
2. In the absence of any concrete knowledge of the modalities being followed by the university, we can only comment on the basis of inferences drawn from what has been observed in the actual practice of moderation and the anomalies that appear therein. We presume that the university is currently following the practice of uniform moderation for an entire class for a particular paper based on the performance of the class as a whole in the external examinations.
3. What has been clearly observed is that the university currently follows a practice of deducting some equal absolute marks from the total internal assessment marks of all students of a particular paper of a particular college it is moderating (the basis for which however remains unknown to us). For example, if 4 marks are being deducted it is done for all the students of a class, i.e., for a student obtaining 22/25 the same 4 marks are deducted as for a student obtaining 10/25.
This is irrational and unjustified on several counts:
(i) It appears that the university at present is following the practice of moderating the entire internal assessment marks without going into its specific components. Internal assessment of a student is composed of three distinct components – Attendance, Assignments and Mid-Term Examinations. Whereas there is some rationale for moderating the marks obtained by the students in assignments or in the Mid-Term test on the basis of their final examination performance, there is no such basis in moderating the marks accruing from attendance. Attendance in no way reflects a student’s academic ability and a student’s attendance record is the final criterion for her marks.
There is no question of moderating the marks obtained due to attendance unless the university has basis to claim that the specific attendance records are inaccurate.
(ii) It stands to reason that a flat and absolute moderation cannot be applied to the entire internal assessment marks of a student. In fact, even the other two components of internal assessment must be separated in the process of moderation. The irrationality involved in the process presently used in the university can be made clear by the way of the following examples.
A student whose internal assessment record is 10/25, may have her marks in the following manner:
Attendance: 5/5; Assignments: 5/10; Mid-Term Exams: 0/10 (i.e., she may have missed the Mid-Term). Now, suppose the University reduces the marks of the entire class by 5 marks in moderation. By doing so, the university has in effect done one of the following unsustainable actions:
– it has either deducted 5 marks from the student’s Assignment marks and assigned her only 0/10, for which there is no grounds whatsoever;
– or it has deducted marks from her Attendance marks, which is not justified;
– or it has assigned negative marks to her for her Mid-Term Exams since it is already zero!
This extreme example indicates the kind of anomalies that are present in the current practice and underlines the urgent need to disaggregate the different components of a student’s internal assessment marks before moderation.
(iii) This also fundamentally questions the practice of equal absolute deduction for all students of a class. Any deduction of marks must be proportional (and not absolute) to the total marks in each separate component, even if different proportions can be applied to students at different percentile levels of the class. Thus if it is observed that there is possible systematic over-marking at the higher end of the marks spectrum, those can be moderated differentially to those at the lower end of the marks spectrum.
4. It must be fundamentally realised that any moderation exercise, regardless of whatever statistical method is applied, is speculative and stochastic. Thus, care must be taken when applying any moderation to seemingly obvious cases of gross deviation. In any across-the-board moderation, there is always the danger of penalising good students who are genuinely capable of obtaining high marks. For instance, a good student who stands out from her class by performing well in both the internal and the external examinations may get penalised because her internal marks are also moderated along with everybody else in the class.
To prevent this, any student’s external marks (percentage) in a paper should be treated as a floor-level below which the moderated internal marks should not sink. This exercise should be student-specific. That is, if a student has obtained 80% in her final examinations, her moderated internal assessment marks in the assignment or Mid-Term component should not be less than 80%. That is, if the college had already given her marks equal to or below this it should be maintained, and if the university does impose any moderation, the external marks percentage should act as a floor for an individual student.
5. Care must also be taken to see if students across colleges are doing badly in some paper. In such instance no moderation of internal assessment can be done because the assumption that the performance in the external examinations is the hypothetical normal situation is violated.
6. The moderation, as it is currently practiced, is merely a penalising device. Genuine moderation should work both ways. Thus, if it is found that an entire class has obtained grossly and systematically low marks in their internal evaluation (Assignments and Mid-Term exams) in a paper compared to their external performance, they should then be moderated upwards using more or less similar statistical criteria as in downward moderation.
7. The college should be informed whenever moderation is applied to any paper for any set of students of the college. In case a college is dissatisfied with the specific moderation, it can ask for a reassessment on the basis of the Mid-Term scripts that are maintained in the college. Any moderation of marks obtained therein should be subject to scrutiny by any external anonymous examiner, who could scrutinise both the standard of questions set and the standard of evaluation.
8. The internal assessment system can work with mutual trust at various levels – between the university examination authorities and teachers, as between teachers and students. Inasmuch as we require safeguards that this trust is not misused, any opaque system of moderation without transparency and consultation can become a fundamental basis of grievance and mistrust. Our contention is that if the circumstances and method of moderation is made transparent, the teachers and the moderation committees in the college will themselves take care of any genuine overvaluation or undervaluation, and the moderation at the university level can then be an exercise to check the obvious extremes.