JK Rowling and the Assessment Dilemma

JK Rowling’s first post-Potter novel

This is a thought-in-progress rather than a full-blown post. Whilst browsing around on the Amazon website last week I happened to notice that JK Rowling had a new novel “The Casual Vacancy” coming out. What struck me most was the low star-rating the book was apparently scoring… not least because it hadn’t actually been published yet.¬†Curious, I clicked onto the customer feedback to find out what was going on.

It quickly transpired that the panning the book was receiving had nothing to do with the written word. Instead Kindle-owners were venting their wrath about the fact that the ebook was retailing for more than the hardback. “too expensive”, “why did I buy a kindle”, “rip off”, “disgusted” cried the subject lines of the comments*.

Rather than rating the quality of Ms Rowling’s story, the intended focus of the feedback, the potential customers were using the only channel open to them to register a different complaint about.

This set me thinking about the kind of Module Assessment feedback Universities gather from students. If we haven’t provided them with appropriate mechanisms to raise issues about which they are dissatisfied, then there is a danger that the numeric module feedback we receive may actually mean something entirely different to the interpretation we later place upon it.

(* as it happens the feedback since the book was published has continued to be pretty rotten, but this doesn’t negate the original observation)

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