Implementation of anonymous marking

Female writing

From Semester 1, 2018, anonymous marking of written assignments, tests and examinations should be undertaken across all units of study. This will help to reduce conscious or unconscious bias in assessment.

When setting up written assignments in Turnitin, it is essential that you properly activate anonymous marking at the point you set up the assignment and before it is made available to students. This applies whether your unit of study is hosted in Canvas or Blackboard.

The Examinations Office is also developing its approach for supporting the anonymous marking of examinations throughout 2018 with a view to full implementation in Semester 1, 2019.

Why introduce anonymous marking?

Bias in assessment is contrary to both universal academic values and the values underpinning the University’s 2016–20 Strategic Plan, in particular ‘Diversity and inclusion’ where we commit to “never limit people’s pursuit of excellence on the basis of their background or circumstances”.

While academics will endeavour to exclude conscious bias, the work of Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and others has demonstrated that unconscious bias is present in much human behaviour. Minimising the opportunity for unconscious bias to affect marking is something our student community feels strongly about and in 2015, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) provided a paper to the University Executive (then SEG) Education Committee pointing to research on the influence of unconscious bias on academic assessment.

Provided that anonymous or de-identified marking is managed well so that it doesn’t interfere with good teaching and feedback practices, it can help to reduce the occurrence of both conscious and unconscious bias.

In late 2016, the Academic Board approved an amendment to the Assessment Procedures 2011 to facilitate the introduction of anonymous marking (see clause 5(7)). This means that, at the point of marking, the work submitted by any student should be identified by their Student Identification Number (SID), rather than their name.

The Academic Standards and Policy Committee of the Academic Board considered both technical and practical issues affecting the implementation of anonymous marking, including the University’s transition from Blackboard to Canvas, and the expectation was set that anonymous marking would be implemented throughout the University by Semester 1, 2018 (Committee Minutes, PDF, 68KB).

Are there exceptions to anonymous marking?

There will always be types of assessment for which anonymous marking is not practical, including:

  • creative or performance-based assessments
  • iterative or scaffolded writing tasks
  • tasks that incorporate a presentation-based element
  • tasks that are reflective or relate to practicums or internships.

Even so, anonymous marking should be employed wherever it is possible and practical.

What do I need to do differently in Canvas?

For information and step-by-step instructions for setting up anonymous marking of Turnitin assignments in Canvas, see the Introduction to Turnitin content in the Teaching Resources Hub.

What do I need to do differently in Blackboard?

For information and step-by-step instructions for setting up anonymous marking of Turnitin assignments in Blackboard, see the Create, access and mark Turnitin assignments in Blackboard content in the Teaching Resources Hub.

Further advice can also be sought from the Educational Innovation helpdesk – call 12000 and select option 2.

How will end of semester examinations be affected?

The Examinations Office is exploring the best way to manage formal examinations to support the anonymous marking of student examinations by unit of study teaching staff. This ranges from how best to manage “anonymised” examination venues and seating, to the way in which students will record their Student Identification number (SID) on exam scripts.

The Examinations Office will refine their methods during 2018 – initially through small scale trials – and aim to achieve full implementation in time for the formal examinations to be held at the end of Semester 1, 2019.

Further information on the management of anonymous marking of examinations will be provided once the final approach has been established.

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