I am by no means the perfect student. There seem to be a lot of us these days. Despite my poor work ethic and inability to place extreme importance on anything school-related (besides our wonderful school newspaper), I often find myself questioning the fairness of this institution’s assessment and grading.
I would like to start with the long-overdue iClicker subject. Especially in first year, I wonder whether imposing this method of grading represents a fair mark. Look around during one of these sequences and you will find students turning their heads and ultimately copying someone else’s click.
Well, that’s fair.
Either one student knows the answer and a chain of classmates press the same button, or one student is too prudent to copy, guesses wrong, and like falling dominos, a portion of the class tumbles into the abyss.
What about the dreaded 10% participation mark? The participation grade does not assess students’ knowledge of course material. It measures how outgoing a student is. Some of us are introverts, while others are outspoken and often annoying. Personally, I do not participate unless I am very comfortable with my professor and my classmates, and unless I have read the course material in time for lecture—a rarity. I would not say it is always the case, but more often than not, the belligerent student speaks out very vaguely, a telltale sign of “No, you did not read the material; no, you do not know what you are talking about; and yes, you are sucking up to the professor who will award you with unfair, petty participation grades for being oh, so un-shy.”
So again I ask, are we as students of an institution as “honourable” as U of T
being assessed fairly?
I believe it is a given that classes of roughly 35 to 50 students have a severe advantage over those in the 100+ classes. The ability to have more of your professor’s attention and the opportunity to enjoy a more intimate classroom experience surely provide students with greater chances to succeed.
And lastly, the dreaded freak exam schedule.
On Tuesday, April 16, I have a poetry exam on the political, social, and literary complexities of 16th-century poetry, containing a splash of English history. On Wednesday, I have a rigorous exam on literature prior to the 1800s—a course focused on the emergence of the novel form and on the social situation of different classes and different genders. Finally, on Thursday, I have a tedious politics exam involving at least a pair of in-class essays on the different methods certain countries follow to resolve international conflict.
The result on each of these exams will be greatly affected by my dreaded schedule. I question the fairness, since 35% of my grade for three courses will be based on three exams in a row.
I can imagine the Office of the Registrar laughing at me, perhaps even plotting some kind of sneaky attack to push my buttons further. I want to emphasize how much this subject annoys me despite my not truly caring, this being my last year. To fail a class would require a truly uninspired effort. I am very confident in my ability to not nosedive my way out of graduation.
To be completely honest, while these three days will be torturous, I can see a little light at the end of the tunnel simply because I will finish the bulk of my exams in one drawn-out sequence. Kind of like downing a nasty shot.
But the problem—and I truly think this is indisputable—is that students in each of my three classes with a more relaxed exam schedule even in the slightest way all have an advantage over me, and they all have a better chance of receiving a higher mark.
Why? Well, because they have more time to study. They have more leisure. They do not have to study two or three weeks in advance, then review days before, mixing knowledge between three courses, like dumping rum, Tabasco sauce, and honey in a giant jar, twisting on the cap, and shaking vigorously.
I can understand people shaking their heads at me. But if you were in my situation, you would feel the same way. The fact of the matter is, my exam schedule has a direct effect on my grades in those three courses. Even if I had two exams in a row and then one day off before the third—or even better, if I had one every other day—I would be in a much better situation. I guarantee my grades would reflect that. My freak exam schedule leads to unfair assessment in relation to my fellow students in each of these classes.
Yes, Office of the Registrar, laugh and mock me because you do not understand. Yes, you roll the dice, and most students get a flexible exam schedule, while the minority are at a severe disadvantage and are being graded unfairly.
This is a very dreaded experience that one would think an institution as honourable as U of T could work around to discover a more reasonable and fairer assessment of their students’ grades. For example, before releasing the exam schedule to students, take a minute to see if any of us got the obvious worse end of the stick. But I guess with how prestigious U of T is supposed to be, that is just too much to ask.
I have little faith this speed bump will be addressed in time for my three days of torture. But hopefully UTM will consider what I think is a large assessment issue for future students.
Fourth year, English