response by Professor LEE GODDEN
Volume 9, Issue 8
One of the advantages of doing interim assessments is attaining feedback on how you’re going so far. Particularly in the case of a multiple choice assessment, the feedback should be immediate and obvious; you look at the questions you got wrong, see what the right answer is, and are thus able to revise the topic on the basis of your error.
Unfortunately, that opportunity hasn’t been made available to the students who took the mandatory Property Law multiple choice test. All students are being given their raw score out of 25, and there was a “feedback” session on 19 April where answers were given to the most incorrectly answered questions. As such, what we were mostly told of was feedback for the cohort on the whole and what we had done better/worse on as a collective.The reason given for not being given individualised correct/incorrect answers was that it could undermine the integrity of the process if we were to give the correct answers to next year’s cohort.
It was emphasised by a Property Law teacher that the questions are rewritten each year, rather than just using the same ones, but as there are a limited amount of topics that we could potentially be questioned upon, it would be too revealing for the questions to be released.
I wager that this a bit of a cop-out, though. After all, this is an education we’re supposed to be getting; the correct legal principles shouldn’t be locked away in a treasure chest just out of reach: it’s the teacher’s duty to make sure we know them. And it’s not just an education; it’s either an expensive $30k education (if you’re a CSP place) or a ludicrously expensive $115k one (if you’re paying full-fee).
I should mention here, that the vast majority of students did well and are happy with their results, and I’m lucky to count myself within that. We were told we could “talk to our teacher if we were concerned about our result”, but I’m not concerned by my result - I just want to know what were the few I got wrong (and their correct answers). Have you ever taken a test, in school, or university, or otherwise, where you weren’t actually told what you got wrong?
There’s a general reluctance amongst us to stand up to things like this - where we get a raw deal. I think about the contrast between the lack of enthusiasm we have to advocate for recorded lectures, to the same attitudes faced in undergrad; this was something that was fought against and successfully won: the right to listen to the education you are paying for at a convenient time. But I don’t want to claim that the attitude of “shut up and take it” is just confined to us – I was part of a campaign to win penalty rates at a workplace last year, and while the vast majority of employees in that franchise were supportive of this, there were a few who were defensive of the business’s right to “set their own wages” and didn’t want to be a part of it.
One could say the attitude in the story I just mentioned, or amongst the law school when we don’t push back against getting a raw deal, is one of a general acceptance of neoliberalism as the dominant/default mode to expect. But I think either this analysis is flawed, or something has gone wrong in the matrix. Neoliberalism supports the unimpeded pursuit of interests and goals, but even if you were to accept this as your guiding principle, it wouldn’t follow that you’d put the wants of an organisation ahead of your own self-interest.
What has happened with the Property Law test is that students have been seen as a cohort, and a group, to the exclusion of being treated as a valued individual. This happened with the marks for our interim Trusts assessment as well, which was initially going to be posted on one sheet with everyone’s student numbers and results. Thankfully, this was challenged and shows that at times, we can speak out at the ridiculous.
Perhaps we should do the same in this case.
Note: This article was sent to the subject co-ordinator of Property Law, Lee Godden, for comment and approval. Since then, and perhaps in response to the article and other student criticisms, Lee has sent a notice to students informing them that a copy of the exam and answers will be released on the LMS. This, the notice says, will be posted shortly. This article has not been amended in response, and is published as it was written prior to the notice.
Tim Sarder is a second-year JD student.
Response: A Face in the Cohort: the “Shut Up and Take It” Mentality
I thank De Minimis for the opportunity to briefly respond to, “A Face in the Cohort: the “Shut Up and Take It” Mentality”.
It is important that teachers respond to the learning needs of individuals for ‘feedback’. Often, those needs must be balanced against the collective well-being of the cohort; differential learning needs in students within the subject; and fairness across the student body. In turn, the integrity of assessment processes (e.g. retention of interim assessment ‘documents’ prior to completion of a subject) and institutional policies come into play.
Feedback can take many forms. There is a range of feedback provided to students in Property Law for the midterm exam. All students received their marks for the exam, two days after it was completed. There was a general feedback session (the subject of the article) available to all Property students; based around the six most difficult questions as identified by LMS statistics. In a general session, it is not possible to tailor to individual student responses. This session occurred within a week of release of marks. All teachers are covering questions in classes. A notice posted to the LMS outlines the ‘feedback’ available to students.
Most importantly, feedback is effectively achieved where students are not just given correct answers in a vacuum, but can access their exam answer responses in consultation with teaching staff. ALL students are able to go over their mid-term exams, see their answers and be provided with feedback on all their exam answers in these consultations. In accordance with policy, and the practice in other law subjects, students will not be able to take away hard copy of their individual exam. The article ‘suggests’ students were never to be able to access ‘correct’ exam answers. That is not the situation. Release of multiple choice exam questions, given the relatively confined number of issues and fact scenarios and the potential for ‘sharing’ of answers by students, can reduce the bank of available questions for later years. This was the concern that I expressed. This is a factor relevant to the ongoing viability of online tests. In Property Law we are using online assessment tools – broadening the range of assessment types for students across the law curriculum– but also getting to know their capabilities and constraints in assisting student learning.
I am happy to answer any queries raised by the article. If any student in Property Law has questions about the exam please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or 83441109.
Professor Lee Godden is the coordinator of Property Law in the JD