The final exam 2014: FUBAR

The-Biggest-Mistake-You’re-Making-on-TwitterWhat a cock up.

I let students have two goes at all the class tests and the final exam. I get the on-line system to tell the students how well they did after the first go, but nothing more. This means they do the test again thinking even harder. I like that: the aim of my tests is to teach (assessment is a very very secondary aim). The students like it too: they think having a second go helps them (though the reality is that their scores are as likely to go down as up). This two-shot strategy has worked really well for the 24 class tests and final exams that I have previously run. But this time….

The course management software (Angel) returns the answers as its default position. In the end-of-semester chaos, I forgot to flick the switch that stops that… And I never noticed because Angel doesn’t let you pretend to be a student doing the test ahead of time: you can only get the student view in real time. And I did not have real time.

I was at a conference in Thailand, jet lagged. I got to do the test eight hours after it went live and just a few minutes before I was due to give my keynote talk. I immediately saw the problem (oh that sinking feeling). But by then, about 15 students had done the test. Naturally, most of them had got 100% on their second go (although my favorite exception was the first student: from 46% to 93% [93%?]). I realized immediately the test was a blow out. If I switched off the answers there and then, what to do about those 15 students? I debated calling the whole exam off but decided that most of the students would have a proper go the first time, and so learn something. But as an assessment, it was clearly blown. I would have to give everyone who did the exam 100%. Which I duly did.

The fiasco generated an interesting study in humanity. Of the 181 students who did the final exam, just six emailed to point out the problem. (To put that in perspective, four other students emailed to complain about their blog grades during that same period.) One of the six covered herself in glory. She emailed me, a TA and my staff assistant to point the problem out – and then deliberately did not use the right answers before her second go. Another of the six (one of this year’s blog plagiarists) used the answers to elevate her score to 100%, and then asked for extra credit for bringing it to my attention.

Among the other 175 students, there were 15 who got all questions correct on their first and only go. It is possible that they genuinely achieved 100% through their own efforts. If so, I hope those students took great satisfaction. But on none of the previous tests did anyone get everything right, let alone on their first go. Hard to think the list of answers wasn’t floating around the class, despite the honor pledge. It’s no wonder there is so much corruption in society.baraka_monkey

Still, no getting round it: what a cock-up on my part. Apologies folks.

1 thought on “The final exam 2014: FUBAR

  1. Pingback: The bottom line for 2014 | Penn State Voices

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