ENSURING THAT EXAMINATIONS MEASURE THE ACQUISITIONS OF KNOWLEDGE AND NOT THE STANDARDS AND OPINIONS OF THOSE WHO SET THEM

Banu, S. and Jerrams, S. (2013) ENSURING THAT EXAMINATIONS MEASURE THE ACQUISITIONS OF KNOWLEDGE AND NOT THE STANDARDS AND OPINIONS OF THOSE WHO SET THEM. [Conference Proceedings]

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Official URL: http://library.iated.org/view/BANU2013ENS

Abstract

In higher order learning, examinations remain a major part of assessments that contribute significantly to identifying the standards attained by students. Hence it is crucial to ensure that examinations reflect the required learning and level that a student must obtain to be commensurate with others in a cohort or indeed with others taking equivalent courses nationally and internationally. Also it is important to ensure that the range and quality of learning is enhanced, by challenging students with authentic and intellectually demanding tasks, rather than focusing on surface learning. An in depth analysis of previous examinations set in Engineering Management topics from a number of diverse academic institutes reveals that papers are often set at a level too low (e. g. level II instead of level III). In such circumstances, virtually everyone passes well and usually many students obtain what appear to be exemplary grades. This frequently leads to examination boards adjusting marks to obtain a bell-curve distribution where fewer students obtain distinctions, a large percentage of students achieve average scores and a few have poor marks. It is impossible to make a reasonable adjustment of marks in this circumstance, since the examination has not confirmed that the students have been educated at the correct level. Another situation occurs where the students are guided towards answering formulaic questions and are merely learning to answer questions by following well-rehearsed procedures. In each situation, adjustment is unfair, as it is difficult to determine how much real knowledge the students have acquired. Alternatively, it is possible that a lecturer is satisfied with their own command of the subject, but is unaware that they are failing to convey the subject matter to the students; resulting in a difficult examination that most fail and the lecturer thereafter cites the lack of ability of the students as the cause of the outcome. Of course, it sometimes happens that a cohort of students is badly matched to the syllabus and the lecturer cannot find a way of bridging the gap between the knowledge levels of the students and the requirement of the course. The third situation is the most difficult to resolve because the individual lecturer's faith in their own ability leads them to fall back on the argument that they are maintaining standards where others aren't. Three things undermine this argument: i) If the students perform satisfactorily in other modules, there is usually a different reason for them doing badly in the one in question. Moreover, the lecturer in self defence is implying that his/her colleagues do not work to the same standard. ii) If the students were offered places in line with the correct criteria for the programme, there is no reason why they should perform badly in one module by contrast with others. iii) If exam papers have been independently moderated and an external examiner believes they are pitched at the appropriate level, in conjunction with point ii) there must be a problem with the delivery of the course. This paper will provide insight into the strength and weaknesses of those who set examinations by looking at specific but typical cases. Thereafter causes for setting examinations of inappropriate standard and appropriate remedies will be evaluated.

Item Type: Conference Proceedings
Additional Information: Banu, Sherin Jerrams, Steve; Chova, LG Martinez, AL Torres, IC
Depositing User: National Forum
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 19:59
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2015 19:59
URI: http://eprints.teachingandlearning.ie/id/eprint/1738

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