Countering the compensation culture in assessment ...


Is there a micro-economy in the decisions being made by students, if so, I have to wonder if it has been explored. Reading a couple of pop-science books on economics has tempered my mind to a different way of looking at some long known student behaviours.

Have you ever considered the notion of a tactical assignment submission? In a compensation based assessment structure, you could miss out key elements of study yet gain not too unreasonable grades.

At my university every year I see students; often on their last assignment make some key decisions on how they may leverage compensation against time available.

If the student has time, it is likely that no compensation decision is made, whilst this is an arbitrary notion. We often see full submissions of the final assignment.

If there is less time, other personal contributory factors at play, students aware of the rules will check their overall results and make a play for a lower grade average if it is still within the margin of reward they are looking for.

When there is a ‘compulsory’ pass/fail element in an assignment. Then we will see full submission, but with some students opting out of the non-compulsory question.

In some modules I manage, I am seldom surprised by the fact that students opt-out of the wordy question for the last assignment. But will ensure that they have attended the compulsory day school and completed the two assessments linked to this event.

Contribution by compulsion, they can still get up to 70% of the assignment and overall stand to lose very little. At around a third of a third of a half 50%/3 is 16.6/3 is 4.2%. This may (or may not) move a grade boundary or if they are exceptional in the final exam, they may still stand a chance of gaining a distinctive (first class) grade.

Sometimes when the data is observed, we get uninitiated academics observe the higher overall performance in our continuous assessment. In some respects the compulsory nature of the final assessment encourages participation.

As timing means that it will always remain at the end, some of the work in this assessment requires the student to complete all of their studies before attempting the assessment.

As we are leveraging a ‘natural’ external factor, which assures that we can do this. As we have to abide by some of the requirements of Cisco Systems, the compulsion is not university mandated and does not require a great deal of explanation to our students.

So, without realising we may have rigged the market in the assessment micro-economy. Allowing the students to still use the freely available assessment calculator but force them into completing the majority of the last assignment.

Now wondering if I should start comparing like for like against another module of similar size/shape?





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