Annotating IA Investigations

Once students have finished their Individual Investigation that's it! They won't complete another assessed experiment during their IB and this makes me consider the way I annotate the investigations while I'm marking them.  That is not to say that experiment skills will not be assessed in section A or paper 3, or in the data analysis questions. But it does mean that there is little benefit in pointing out student errors in the final marking of the investigation.

There are probably three stages in marking student investigation work.

I begin with the plan or the first draft which is discussed with students & annotated by the student themselves as a guide to the their next steps. As teachers we are expected to support and guide students in their choice of topic or the type of experiment.

Secondly there is a first draft which I annotate to help students spot problems and things to improve. We are allowed to give general guidance and point out statements in the marking criteria which haven't been addressed. The IB guides says,"teachers should read and give advice to students on one draft of the work. The teacher should provide oral or written advice on how the work could be improved, but must not edit the work."

The final draft is the copy of the investigation which ends up on the screen of the moderator.  I put comments addressed to the moderator on this work explaining why I think the student deserves a certain grade. Like the the comment shown above.  Words from the grade descriptors are OK but it is even better to mention specific things in the work as well.

The moderator is an important person who I want to understand that I have understood the marking criteria correctly and that the students' work meets the criteria for the marks I have awarded.  We are all human I can miss things and so can the moderator, so I want to help make the important decisions visible.

    There is little point suggesting an improvement to the student on the final marked version of the investigation. 

    It's too late for the students and these comments don't help the moderator.

    The student may be frustrated that they can't do anything about these errors.

    Where to annotate ?

    Many teachers probably use a rubric or a marking sheet (e.g. IA Investigation - marking sheet) to summarise the comments and decide the mark.  This is a really useful summary tool for the teacher marking and everyone has their preferred style. Comments explaining how the judgments were made will help the moderator too.  However, I think it's easier for the moderator if my annotations appear in the students work itself next to the evidence.

    It is possible to annotate word documents easily like this, shown above.  Adobe reader has some very good commenting functions now for pdf files and I think that Google docs work well too, although I haven't used Google docs for investigations myself. Chris Hamper (Inthinking Physics site author) uses callouts rather than comments in Google classroom on a Google doc for drafts. These Google callouts are hidden in the final version which is saved as a pdf and comments to the moderator are added to the pdf.  Chris uses Foxit but it is also possible to annotate a pdf using Adobe acrobat reader.

    This is an example of a pdf annotation made with acrobat reader. Of course you can choose the colour and font size.

    Handwritten comments, when they are easy to read, have the advantage of being closer to the work and the marking is perhaps a little quicker, but remember the time you will spend scanning and uploading the work later.  I'd recommend that students use a wider line spacing or double spacing between paragraphs to leave space for written comments. This is already required for the Extended essay, and TOK essays.

    For all comments I would recommend using code letters which refer to the assessment aspects to which the comment refers and also a number or a range of numbers which show the mark thought justifiable for this particular point. This way it is easy to scan the work for all comments which highlight all the supporting evidence for each mark awarded, eg. Exploration (EX:)

    For example;

    • "PE:2 Student shows a genuine interest, including creativity in the use of DIY apparatus in the method", 
    • "EX: 3/4 relevant background info",
    • "A: 5/6 sufficient raw data - supports a detailed conclusion",
    • "EV: 1/2 An outline conclusion supported by data but incomplete",
    • "COM: 1/2 The labeling on tables & graphs missing detail, impossible to understand". 

    Once finished marking a section I look at all my annotations with their grade estimates and decide an overall grade for each section.  If it is clear the moderator will be able to do the same thing.

    I have a simple summary sheet with extra notes scribbled all over it to help me to remember all the aspects which need to be considered for each section and you can find a copy of a similar summary here: IA Investigation - marking sheet

    Personally I would avoid using software which puts a small icon next to the work and a list of comments at the end of the investigation. The moderator will have to make quite an effort to reconnect the comments to their specific places in the work.

    If we can help the moderator, who is working hard at their computer reading through the script and trying to decide whether our judgments are in line with the senior moderator, they will be more likely to moderate our work well and in a better position to give us clear feedback of any discrepancies between our marking and the senior moderator.   Of course the best source of advice for these details will be the Chief examiner's report which is published on the OCC.

    Thanks to Geoff Neuss (Inthinking Chemistry site author) and Chris Hamper (Inthinking Physics site author) for their helpful comments on this page.

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