Examining the examiners: How inexperienced examiners approach the assessment of research theses

Margaret Kiley*, Gerry Mullins

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Earlier research by Mullins and Kiley (2002) [Studies in higher education, 27(4), 369-386] reported on the processes that experienced examiners go through when they assess research theses. Since that study two further studies have been undertaken, interviews with novice Australian examiners, reported here, and the analysis of approximately 100 examiners' reports (Kiley, 2004). These studies now allow us to address the comment made by many of the experienced examiners who were interviewed that it was not wise to send a research thesis, particularly one which is not strong, to inexperienced examiners. We also wanted to determine the extent to which less experienced examiners follow the same processes and use the same criteria as their more experienced colleagues, and whether there was any basis for the experienced examiners' comments. This paper draws particularly on the results of the interviews with 26 examiners and supervisors which indicated that by comparison with experienced examiners, less experienced examiners paid more attention to institutional criteria and the summative dimension of assessment; were unsure of the boundary conditions relating to very good or poor theses; and were more likely to refer back to their own postgraduate experience when reflecting on their approach to both supervision and examination.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)121-135
    Number of pages15
    JournalInternational Journal of Educational Research
    Issue number2 SPEC. ISS.
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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