The UK Linguistics Olympiad needs help!

  • 25 Nov 2011 10:18
    Message # 759375
    Dear All,

    As you know, the UK Linguistics Olympiad is now entering its third year, and I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear about a very happy development. We recruited 29 schools in 2010 and 57 in 2011, but we already have *270* schools registered for 2012. As you also know, we use volunteers to mark the Advanced scripts, which numbered 450 in 2010 and 850 in 2011. We don't yet know how many of the schools registered for 2012 will be entering Advanced candidates, but it's reasonable to assume that we'll see something like 4,000 scripts. That's five times as many scripts as in 2011, when we struggled to mark them with 25 volunteers. So you can see that our unexpected success in recruitment has generated a problem. We think we've found a solution, but it will need your help, please.

    We already have 25 volunteers, but that's only the same number as in 2011; at the rate of 30 per person, we shall need five times that number, and we still invite you to offer your services (by registering as a volunteer marker at But those numbers need an alternative solution, which we've already started to develop. The idea is for departments to recruit large numbers of students to mark scripts in a 'markathon'. Through the committee, we already have such events planned in Edinburgh, Essex, Sheffield, Swansea and York, so we would like you to consider committing your department to it as well. It should be a lot of fun for the students, and not a great deal of extra work for you.

        Here's how a markathon would work:
    • The marking must take place within a narrow window, during the week 13-17 February 2012; schools will have scheduled their competition during the previous week, and will aim to send the scripts directly to 'their' dept by the 13th (unless they have negotiated a later date with the dept).
    • A department agrees to mark N scripts (where N is hopefully several hundreds, but we accept any offer). This agreement is binding, as selected schools will be told to post their scripts directly to the dept and no alternative marking arrangements can be made at the last minute. We can provide more information and recruitment material, e.g. scanned and anonymised copies of marked scripts from last year, plus copies of the answers and marking scheme, as models of what's involved. 
    • Based on figures from 2011, it's reasonable for one person to mark about 30 scripts in about 2-3 hours. The dept will recruit enough students (undergraduate or postgraduate) to mark the promised number.
    • One member of staff takes responsibility both for the arrangements (including collating marks and returning scripts) and for quality control of the marking.
    • The contact member of staff is free to organise it within the dept in any way, but one scenario has a single time and place designated for a 'Markathon', so that students will be supported when marking and can consult the staff member or each other when uncertain; the dept may be moved to offer rewards (chocolates, pizzas, music, etc.) during and after the Markathon, and may be able to offer administrative help with handling the scripts and marks. UKLO can provide certificates of thanks for volunteer students and/or depts, and will publish all names on the UKLO website.
    • UKLO will provide an electronic copy of the test paper some days before the scripts arrive, so the paper can be distributed in advance (without answers) to the volunteer markers. The marking session can start with a discussion of the questions and answers.
    • UKLO also provides a full set of answers together with a detailed marking scheme to standardise marking practices. The marking will be almost mechanical, but typically there are one or two questions where some judgement is needed.
    • The contact member of staff will transfer all marks (by question and candidate) to spreadsheets provided by the school, and pass these to the UKLO central organiser.
    • The dept's help will be acknowledged on the UKLO website. Any department that marks more than 500 scripts will be listed as a patron.
    Please try to help with this urgent problem.

    With best wishes, Dick

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