Thursday, 7 June 2007

Student complaints

I had a chat with a colleague last week, as I was looking for some feedback on the e-assessment she had run this year. She told me about this student complaint, and how it was handled. In all honesty I still can't quite believe we can be this stupid.

Some of our lecturers are experimenting with feedback during summative exams. This means learners immediately know whether they answered a question right of wrong, and sometimes why. It also allows them to instantly view their result at the end of the exam. So far, results from the experiment have been quite good (except for learners who really haven't mastered any of the subject matter, who obviously get rather depressed by this whole affair).

A student that had previously taken part in one of these experimental exams, was now taking part in a regular exam; no feedback and no immediate score. The lecturer, as usual, had received the transcripts from us and, after a possible moderation, had published these to the learners. This learner however was apparently convinced that the lecturer had fiddled with the results. Why else would they not have published the results upon the exam finishing? Apparently the student made quite a scene, upon which the programme leader decided to adhere to the students demands and make the exam available again for his perusal for another week. He was then also granted a resit. I really don't understand the problem here.

Let's look at a normal exam. When you hand in the paper, do you get an immediate result? No, of course you don't; a lecturer takes it away, marks it, maybe a colleague moderates it, and the mark is published. It's the lecturer's job to fiddle with the results, that's what we are paying them for isn't it? They look at the answers provided, and make a judgment on the extent to which they satisfy the assessment criteria? Introducing (partial) marking by a computer can only make this process more objective, not less!

It's no wonder lecturers and teachers sometimes complain about the lack of respect learners give them. Because this isn't just about caving in to a student and giving them their way. This also sends a message that this lecturer was wrong. It sends the message that it is the lecturer who has to cater to the students every whim, as she has now been instructed to do. I understand this lecturer will not be teaching here next year, and if this story is true, I can understand why.

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