Thoughts on assessment

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rawrbomb101
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Thoughts on assessment

Postby rawrbomb101 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:58 am UTC

Today at uni, after getting the results of our mid semester exam back, my electrical engineering lecturer told the class that if we scored higher in the final exam than in the mid semester exam, he was prepared to completely discard the mark we got in the mid semester exam. In this course, the mid semester exam makes up 30% of our total mark, the final exam 50% and our lab work is worth 20%. Most people in the mid semester exam got around 55-60%, which is pretty much what you would expect, but a lot of people also scored around 30%. By discarding our mid semester exams mark if we did well enough in the final exam, he is essentially giving those students that failed horribly a second chance in the final exam.
Personally I think this is fair, as those students that are doing well wont be affected too much by this, and those students that are too lazy to put the effort in will fail the final exam anyway, meaning that those students that pull their socks up and study harder get a second chance, without needing an impossibly high exam score to pass the unit. So I was just wondering, what are your thoughts on this? Good idea? Bad idea? Could be done better in a different way?

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Re: Thoughts on assessment

Postby Zcorp » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:27 am UTC

It largely depends on the goals you set for the educational system. Good and Bad are largely subjective terms.
It is a really poor choice if the goal of the class is to create competition and see who comes out on top. Part of that competition being meeting deadlines and the regurgitation of knowledge (or if your prof is really good, applying knowledge in a practical way expressing understanding of the underlying concepts). However, if the goal is to try and get the most students in the class as competent as possible and to judge them at the end of the class based on their ability to perform the required tasks at that time (either the aforementioned regurgitation or application) then why does it matter how well they did it 2 months ago?

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Re: Thoughts on assessment

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:50 pm UTC

I've been of the opinion that allowing students to retake exams (with each 'retake' becoming progressively harder and harder, so as to curtail people failing the test because they know they can retake it) is an excellent policy. This isn't quite the same, but it's similarly dismissive of previous failures compared to the successes of today--and why not? The point is that you demonstrate (and retain) mastery over the subject matter now, not yesterday.

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Re: Thoughts on assessment

Postby curtis95112 » Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:13 am UTC

Assuming that grades are important, I see this posing a problem if this wasn't announced at the start of the semester.

Changing the rules in the middle of a competition is a bad idea. That student that sacrificed their Math grades for their EE midterms won't like it.
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Re: Thoughts on assessment

Postby Bakemaster » Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:36 pm UTC

As long as the final exam is in some manner cumulative, seems legit to me.
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Re: Thoughts on assessment

Postby Vangor » Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:47 pm UTC

Let me first comment on how ridiculous using two exams for the vast majority of the grade in any class is. Exams are rather mediocre forms of assessment, especially compared to lab work. The issue is measuring what students understand, not what students memorize for short periods.

As to allowing the final exam overwrite the midterm, I have no problem with this since education should not be a zero-sum game. Consider what the difference in content knowledge is between the student who aced the final and midterm and a student who aced the final and failed the midterm. Fair? Would say so.

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Re: Thoughts on assessment

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Fri Oct 14, 2011 12:54 am UTC

I can understand curving the class, but there needs to be absolute thresholds for pass/fail. Whether you learned the material or not has nothing to do with how well the other students earned the material.
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Re: Thoughts on assessment

Postby Andromeda321 » Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:23 am UTC

The point of a course is to master a certain amount of material, so as long as you've mastered it eventually before the end of the semester then I don't see why it's much of an issue.

I'm actually curious to hear if anyone's going to dissent against this and hear their reasoning, as I think this is fairly standard practice in academic courses for a reason.

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Re: Thoughts on assessment

Postby Dark567 » Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:04 pm UTC

Andromeda321 wrote:The point of a course is to master a certain amount of material, so as long as you've mastered it eventually before the end of the semester then I don't see why it's much of an issue.

I'm actually curious to hear if anyone's going to dissent against this and hear their reasoning, as I think this is fairly standard practice in academic courses for a reason.

There is an argument that school serves as a sort of sorting facility to weed out people into different abilities so that employers/colleges/universities have a way to differentiate students of different skill levels. That is to say, if a school gave out straight A's to all its students it was failing to make its tests hard enough to be able to properly differentiate them in order to be evaluated later.

This actually fits in nicely with the "you only get to take the test once" line of education. If they truly were only assessing your knowledge they wouldn't care about letting you take it twice(with newly randomized and slightly hard questions), if in fact you were attempting to assess someone on how they can handles stress, do something right on the first try and learn quickly without a lot of feedback, you would only allow assessment only once.
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