When technology models poor practice

Year1 assessmentOne of the difficulties in teaching first year students is to convey the importance of appropriate handling of data, both in terms of data display and degrees of significance. I’ve commented previously on this site about times when technology can produce utterly inappropriate graphic representation of results (see A bonus lesson in my data handling tutorial).

At the end of the first semester we conduct an online exam using the Blackboard quiz tool. The assessment is out of 200, marked automatically and scaled to a percentage. When the students submit their answers at the end of the test, they get  instant reporting of their result. The screenshot on the right shows a section from the gradebook where the results are recorded in exactly the detail each students gets, i.e. up to 5 decimal places! It is unfortunate that this inappropriate “accuracy” gets displayed to the students.

Graduate employability: a growing concern

During the research for a recently-submitted paper, I decided to investigate the rising importance of graduate employability as a concern for universities (and the wider society). As an indicator of this trend I searched Google Scholar for articles with “graduate” and “employability” in the title – the results are shown in the chart below.

A survey of Google Scholar looking at the number of articles published over past thirty years with "graduate" and "employability" in the title

The increase in papers on graduate employability is striking, but probably not a surprise. Having done this research, however, I elected not to include the data in the paper. Why? My main concern was uncertainty about appropriate controls for the fact that there has been a general increase in information (specifically academic literature) during the same period. I was therefore uncomfortable about the dangers of over-interpretation.

Should I have worried? Is it a valid observation? What could serve as a legitimate control?  Any thoughts gratefully received.

  • Awards

  • May 2020
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