One of the main problem of being a Medical Lecturer is participating in assessment. Medical Lecturers were trained to become doctors first and foremost. Most of us have passion for teaching and research, but when it comes to curriculum building and assessment, we lack coaching and guidance. I attended a couple of courses on how to assess students, and was baffled at how much I didn’t know. To really learn the techniques, I was sure I will need about 4 weeks of coaching, without having to participate in clinical commitments to just be familiar, let alone master it. No wonder when it comes to assessing Medical Students to graduate them as doctors, even if the instruments were in place, often times it lacked standardisation. We then ended up not being discriminating enough in identifying the really poor candidates who did not deserve to pass, while picking up the cream to be promoted for distinctions. During exams, we as the examiners tended to trust our ‘gut’ feeling and let our emotions dictate our marking if we were not careful. For the last five years, I have never been really comfortable at being an examiner but in the last couple, I felt more at ease.
How about marking for written assessment? We can be terrible. I was marking essays today for the Masters exam and spent so much time trying to ‘deconstruct’ what was written and tried to be objective and methodical in distributing the marks. It was not easy, but things were getting better. Realising this, the steering and vetting committee decided to impress upon us examiners on the value of conforming to a marking scheme, while allowing some leeway for the candidates to express their thoughts. To help, the number of the examiners were also increased. For the 48 or so scripts we had to mark this morning, we had 12 examiners. In the end, we only had to scrutinise eight scripts before cross-checking them with a partner. At the end, everything was completed inside 2 and a half hours and I was already back at my Day Care by noon. I was dreading that the session would have extended until the afternoon. I was glad I was wrong.