Thursday, May 27, 2010

Visit to Waterford IT

Today I visited Waterford Institute of Technology as the External Examiner for an honours degree programme delivered there. I can't give any details of the programme here, but I do wish to comment on being an External Examiner.

Most (if not all) Colleges use External Examiners (EE) - we have them for programmes in NCI. The role of the EE is to ensure that marking has been fair, learning outcomes have been met, and that the standards in an Institution are comparable with other Institutions. However, for me the best part is seeing how assessment is carried out in other Colleges. First, I'm always interested in the Administration of exams - this is something that is potentially easy to mess up, but I'm glad to say is managed well. For a College to hold so many exams in different modules for different subjects - plus hundreds of students, is a major logistical undertaking. As an EE I get to see, review, and approve exam papers written in subjects that I would not ordinarily teach. The structure of exams, the style of questions asked for different educational levels, the variety in assessment techniques - is a fascination that I feel more educators in third-level should be exposed to. Imagine a Faculty group reviewing a paper written by a expert in assessment from another College - I don't think that we do enough of this at our level, and it is definitely something we can learn from.

Reviewing student scripts is also fascinating. While I will reveal no details here - suffice it to say that there is not much difference between exams I set and correct myself, and those of other Colleges. Take away the cover sheet and College name, and the results could be almost the same, with the same issues arising.

The role of an EE is one I take seriously - whether is is me as an EE for another College, or EEs that visit NCI. A pity that only a sample of student work is reviewed - it is probable that an EE will miss out reviewing papers from some excellent students. It is one of the most satisfying aspects of our job to see students succeed in exams - marking and reviewing a paper with a high score is a good feeling. 

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