I was having a look at the Times Higher Education site the other day when a post entitled “Students get marks just for turning up” caught my eye. The post describes how some universities have been accused of bribing undergraduates by awarding assessment marks simply for turning up. Of course this made me smile, I have seen such ridiculous criteria used for assessment in several institutions and it never fails to make me beggar belief. Most recently I was at a demonstration of interactive lecture technology (audience response systems) where one academic thought it might be useful for assessing attendance. I nearly fell off my chair. This audience was supposed to be interested in innovative use of educational technology.
What struck me about the post in THE was the number of comments in support of the practice with one commentator offering the alternative practice of not marking a students assessment unless they turn up for more than 80% of his classes. Now really, where do these academics get off. Firstly they have no clue about the purpose of assessment. What are they measuring here? The ability of a student to drag him or herself out of bed to come to a lecture? How is is that relevant? How does it contribute to their learning outcomes?
Secondly are they really saying that they only way that a student can succeed in the course is by coming to their class? Is it really only possible to learn about their subject by attending their class. Are they such delicate geniuses that theirs are the only words that count in Aerodynamics 101 or Middle English 3? Has nothing been published on these subjects? Have the academics themselves not published their own research in these areas?
Such ideas are antiquated in an age where learning happens everywhere – increasingly outside of universities. Any university that encourages such assessment practices really is ready for the scrap heap.