Consensus marking as a grading method for the development of evaluative judgement: Comparing assessor and students

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Aim: This study explored postgraduate nursing students’ perceptions, anxiety and satisfaction of an innovative and novel grading method for online vivas, consensus marking, compared with traditional assessor judgement. Background: Reflection, self-evaluation and feedback conversations have the potential to develop nursing students’ evaluative judgement. Consensus marking is a novel method of grading students’ performance that supports students to reflect, self-evaluate and grade their own work. Active engagement in a feedback dialogue supports students to calibrate their self-evaluation to the required standard in a grade negotiation. Through this approach, students are supported to develop evaluative judgement and lifelong learning skills. Design: A convergent mixed-methods parallel research design was used. Methods: Students enrolled in a postgraduate emergency nursing unit of study completed two online viva assessments. One viva was graded using traditional assessor judgement and the other used consensus marking, involving a two-way feedback dialogue, where students had an opportunity to actively engage in grading their own work with the assessor. Student perceptions of each grading method were explored through semi-structured interviews. Interview data were analysed thematically using a six-stage approach. Student anxiety and satisfaction were measured pre- and post each viva using valid and reliable questionnaires. Non-parametric analyses explored differences in anxiety and satisfaction between the two grading methods. Alpha was set at 0.05. Results: Forty-six participants had complete data for anxiety and satisfaction across both test occasions (82%) and were included in the analysis. Of these, 13 students participated in follow up interviews. Students perceived that the ability to self-evaluate performance and discuss their grade with the assessor using consensus marking was less hierarchical and similar to a collegial debrief. Student anxiety was significantly lower prior to consensus marking compared with the assessor judged viva (p < 0.001). Students were significantly more satisfied with consensus marking compared with assessor judgement (p < 0.01). Conclusions: Consensus marking created an opportunity for students to identify knowledge deficits through reflection and self-evaluation of their own performance prior to external judgement. Students were more satisfied and less anxious with the consensus marking grading method compared with traditional assessor judgement. These findings have implications for the development and application of new grading methods in nursing education to facilitate the development of evaluative judgement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103386
Number of pages8
JournalNurse Education in Practice
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Consensus marking
  • Evaluative judgement
  • Reflection
  • Self-evaluation


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