Extended essay marking: Does the transition from paper to screen influence examiners’ cognitive workload?

Martin Johnson, Rebecca Hopkin, Hannah Shiell


In the UK and elsewhere, awarding bodies are increasingly requiring examiners to mark examination scripts on screen rather than on paper. Research into the consequences of this marking mode transition has shown that examiners are able to mark essays with equal accuracy on screen as on paper. However, this research has raised important questions about how the mode of marking might influence examiner marking processes, particularly for extended essay responses. In reply to these questions, this study explored whether the mode in which extended essays are marked influences the cognitive workload experienced by examiners when marking.
This study collected data from 11 experienced examiners working within a large UK-based awarding body. These examiners were each required to mark a sample of 90 Advanced GCE essays on paper and a matched sample of 90 essays on screen. Midway through their marking in each marking mode, the NASA-TLX measurement instrument was used to gather quantitative data about each examiner's experience of cognitive workload. This data was supplemented with qualitative data derived from semi-structured examiner follow-up interviews. Findings from these sources revealed that the examiners experienced significantly greater cognitive workload while marking on screen than while marking on paper, raising important implications in terms of the training, preparation and support offered to examiners across the marking mode transition.

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