The assessment is primarily two midterm exams (called sessionals here) and one final. There is no other assessment during the semester to see how students are learning. I know it’s not required. Even for me at PBSC, it’s not required. But I have found that assignments and quizzes really help keep students on track.
But I have also seen that students here are not the best kind. They are crazy about the physical attendance but not about the attendance of the mind. They would probably argue about every single assignment. And submit everything late but still want credit. It would be a pain for the instructor.
And the professors, they are already so overworked. I just finished making three sets of exams for the final for my Biotech class and helped my colleague with the two sets of the PCM course. Wow! It can be so time consuming! And I was just teaching one course. I would go nuts if I had to do that for 4 or 5 courses. At least the midterms were not so bad. But then grading all the exams would be crazy!
So forget any assignments….
Although I think it’s a disservice to the students by not giving them work outside of class during the semester and only testing them for exams. But it is also a disservice to give them a professor who is teaching 6-7 different courses and does not have time to give proper time to teaching.
The way the sessionals were given were that the instructor makes an exam: it has been set by the university – 15 or 20 pts depending on the level of the course; 5 questions out of which 2 are multiple choice of 1 point, 1 short answer of 2 pts etc. There is consistency on how exams are made. The exam is printed and given to the office to photocopy. All the exams are enclosed in an envelop, with the information on the class and instructor on it, and the envelop is sealed. All these exams go to the exam committee which oversees giving the exams.
The sessional dates were decided one week before the exams were actually given, so we were in a rush to make all these. Students were panicking. Sessional exams are given like what I remember of the final exams in India. An exam schedule is made, no bags, phones are allowed in the exam room, students have assigned seats, exams are given out and so are answer booklets. Most exams are for 1.5 hrs – which was crazy – because my 15 min exam could be done in 25 mins tops! Students cannot leave early, so they get bored sitting there and try to look around for answers. It’s a painful procedure.
After the exam, the booklets were collected and taken to a room. We had to go to that room, sign out our booklets (from the examination faculty in charge) and grade them there, in that room. Booklets could not be taken out of that room. That’s nuts because later I had to take them out to show them to my students in class. Anyway, grading done, then I had to get a sheet of paper, write ALL the roll numbers chronologically on the paper along with the names of the students, then the scores of each student – in duplicate!! The amount of clerical work involved here just about bored me to death and it was a supreme waste of time.
Once the scores were written, I cannot submit them, yet. I have to give the booklets back to the students, make sure that their scores are added properly (I had an error!) and then submit the scores in the office. It was one painful process.
All these sessionals take place over 7-8 days. Students don’t show up to class for 1-2 days before the sesssionals and then 2-3 days after the exams. So luckily there is some time to grade the exams. Again, I had only two full lectures to grade, I cannot imagine having a schedule like my colleagues, 6-7 lectures! The other painful thing about the grading was that the students could answer in whichever order they wanted to. If there are 5 questions, I would see them in whichever order. It made it so much harder to grade.
But boy, these students had the capacity to write. They may not speak in class or know anything or even come to class, but they filled their copies with full English paragraphs…..of garbage. I would read the whole thing and could not find one point to give anywhere!
The other aspect of all these exams is the invigilation (proctoring – in American English). All instructors are assigned proctoring duties throughout the week. It is not that since it is exam week one has the week off. All my colleagues were burdened with both morning and afternoon proctoring duties during the entire week. So when will they find time to grade? And the scores were due just one week after the last exam was given. Really stress time for instructors.
All in all, not a pleasant experience. There are two sessionals, I was not there for the second one, although I made the exam for it. The final exam has to be made in three sets for 3 years, because it was a new syllabus, otherwise I would make two sets. These are also in a preset format – 10 questions will be 1 pt each, 3 will be 3 pts each and so on. The college can decide to pick one of the three sets of exams to give or give another set from another college since the syllabus is all the same.
It was during these sessionals that I decided that I had had enough of work. I had not expected so much work during the two months I was here because when I joined in 1st week of February, it all seemed manageable, but slowly the work kept increasing, because the circumstances. But it did not have to be this way. The administration could have handled it differently.