On Campus

Students can’t mark each other’s assignments, says court

Prof says he used peer-to-peer marking software for three years with no complaints

According to The National Post, a University of Toronto professor who started a peer-to-peer grading system in his psychology class three years ago has been ordered to cease and desist by Ontario’s highest court.

Steve Joordens, who placed in the top 20 of TVO’s best lecturer contest last year, says he wanted his large 1,500-student first-year psychology class to write and think critically. But the course only had the budget for multiple-choice assignments that were marked by a machine.

That is, until one of his students designed software that allowed five students to mark a peer’s work then calculated an average grade. These peer-marked assignments made up 10 per cent of students’ final marks for three years, during which Joordens says he didn’t get a single complaint.

But, when it discovered the marking system, the union representing U of T’s teaching assistants and sessionals filed a grievance against the school. In January, an independent arbitrator found that the union’s collective agreement does not allow students or teaching assistants at the university to mark for professors without getting paid.

Joordens appealed that decision to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which upheld the original decision June 8.

For his part, the professor says he hopes he can find a way to continue using the software that would be acceptable under the union’s collective agreement.

“It just seems kind of silly,” says Joordens. “It’s just like we stepped on their little piece of ground and even if we were trying to do good for everyone, they won’t have it.”

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