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Assessments … what assessments?

By Su-San Sit Oct 28, 2014
Rex Features

By Su-San Sit and Charlie Lewis 

Halfway into my first semester of university, back in Australia, I badly misinterpreted the amount of work an assignment required, got it back slashed with red ink and barely scraped pass. I realised something looking at that academic rebuke- I cared. I wanted to do well. I would not be lazy again. And I wasn’t. You know, mostly.

In its narrowest, most official sense, it is through our assessments we that show what we’ve learnt, how hard we’ve worked. But how have international students been adapting to their new education structure, and, perhaps even more crucially, how has the education structure adapted to them?

For the newest wave of study abroad semester-long students, Kingston’s new year-long modules may be proving problematic in two key ways.

Firstly, many students find themselves in modules that have one assessment worth 100 per cent of their mark. Tutors are required to provide alternative ways to grade these students who are only realistically participating in half the material. But is this actually translating in a fair assessment of what they have learnt and what they are capable of?

In one particular third year module, Susan is required to write an essay at the end of the semester worth 100 per cent of her mark. Charlie too, is enrolled in a single assessment second year module that is due well after he has completed his scheduled time at Kingston in January.

Many problems arise from such an unbalanced arrangement. We ask: how can these students monitor their progress and comprehension of the topics, when they are assessed only once, and after all the teaching is complete? How are they supposed to improve?

There is the pressure of trying to achieve the highest mark possible (at the first and only attempt) and justify the money and upheaval of studying abroad.

On a practical level, there is the simple disruption of a student not being informed until after they have started study that their assessment falls weeks after they thought they would depart the UK.

Furthermore, the allocation of a simple pass/fail system for each module at the end of term in place of a more complete breakdown of a student’s grades may affect their motivation to achieve their best.

The stereotype of study abroad students is of tourists using the exchange program as an opportunity to have fun under the pretense of studying. But as study abroad students who do care about the academic side of our international experience, we feel more should be done to ensure students are fairly and effectively assessed.

So tell us, are we deluded in thinking these study abroad students want better assessments to reflect the work that they do or do you think the current system is adequately catering for them already?


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