Tuesday 12 May 2020

The beginning of the end

At 1638hrs last Thursday, I drew a line under my marks for the last of my final year project students. I had knocked off 3 that day; and it took me 9 elapsed hours with sanity-saving breaks for tea, pasty, and transplanting green beans. That was the last piece of intellectually demanding work I'll be doing for The Institute. There is scads of bureaucratic work still on my TTD list but, having cancelled my Human Physiology exam to covid-spare my Pharmacy Technician students, I can watch as my colleagues sweat the on-line alternative assessment theatre as well as the usual marking of submissions.

Wot? Cancelled the Hum Phys exam? After you worked so hard, and talked so fast to cover the learning outcomes in March? Talking about inflammation and the hormonal control of sperm production because they were on the May exams, was my last in-the-same-room action with any students. Shortly after that, it became clear that May exams would contravene physical distancing protocols and we were requested-and-required to think of alternative assessment methods and summarise these on an enormous departmental spread-sheet. I tell ya, b'ys, my knickers were well twisted by this requirement and I put 4 different ideas up on line. The dilemma was that Institutional Me thought
  1. that the exams should be as normal as possible even if carried out at the kitchen table
    • The option taken by most colleagues
  2. that threat could be turned into a learning opportunity "write a report on the human physiological effects of SARS-CoV2 infection".
  3. that seemed an unfair burden so I rowed back to a key part of the syllabus with "write a report on the physiological control of blood-pressure by the nervous and endocrine systems"
All the while, in parallel, the airwaves were filled with reports of how our pharmacy technicians PT students were going to work in shops across the region, with sketchy PPE, extra stressed customers, and the shelves empty of ibuprofen. I thought that, IF I set the exam ANDIF one student pulled a desperate all-nighter to cram in the material ANDIF a sleep-deficit mistake was made at work the following day ANDIF someone got the wrong meds THEN I'd never know BUT it would be on my transcript when I appeared at the pearly gates. I wrestled with this [all-nighter alert] and then acquired a back-bone and made my final entry on the alternative assessment spread-sheet.
The Learning Outcomes have been met by Continuous Assessment
and calculated a final mark based on all the quizzes, research projects and assignments I had given the PTs since September. The language is important; you can make it easier for people to accept your proposal. This decision / proposal had to go for appro Up the Khyber Hierarchy through the Programme Board, The Alternative Assessment Tribunal and Academic Council but was eventually given the stamp of approval. It felt right, I felt right-on. It put things in a proper perspective. Much as I'd like folks to know that insulin is smaller than the pancreas and that oxytocin is more complicated than you think, it would be unrealistic to think that this information would stick for more than a few days after the final exam.

One of the unintended consequences of this High Moral Ground decision, is that yesterday I uploaded the PT1 marks onto the central marks computer and got closure on the last iteration of my main lecture course at The Institute. I can now spend a half day not marking crabbed-hand, rote-learned, answers to my exam questions. Done!

Then again then again, I had a long chat with my retired-at-fifty pal the day I finished my Projects and he suggested I might, in an HR emergency, answer the call to serve The Institute for part of next academic year as we emerge from lock-down. That's at least 4 months away. La La La, can't hear that call.
For Now its par TAY,

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