Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Assessing Students Who Become Sick During Exams

Students taking a test at the University of Vi...
Taking an Exam
by Richard D Boyce

There will always be conscientious students who are sick but will come to school to do an examination.

Teachers should discourage this practice both to the student and their parents as most, if not all schools, have protocols to overcome initial absences from examinations.

Encourage your students to tell you if they have been or are feeling sick prior to an examination. Then, with them, you can make a decision as to whether they will attempt it or not.

If the worst does occur and the student does get sick doing the exam, here is a process you might follow.

  • Note the time this occurs on the student's exam paper at the point where the illness occurs as the student may like to continue at a later time.

  • Treat the ill student in accordance with school protocol.

  • When the exam paper is returned to you for marking, mark the parts of the exam that have been done prior to the illness occurring and any other work separately. Compare the two sections to see if they seem to be typical of the student's results and then discuss the results with your supervisor to decide on a mark or adopt normal school policy on how to give appropriate credit.

  • Check also if the child was sick before the exam. This too could be factored into your decision about a final rating/mark for the exam. It may be that the results you already have from previous assessment items, give you enough data to give a valid level of achievement for the subject. That means you can ignore this exam result. School policy may suggest how you treat this situation.

  • Always encourage a student to do the exam at a later date rather than do it when they are ill. The exam can be marked and used as a guide to their achievement as well as giving the student a real idea of how he/she understood the learning tested in that exam. This would allow him/her to do remedial work if necessary before continuing the subject or starting the next unit in the subject or the next year. These marks could be recorded with an explanation and may be used later to give extra data to help decide on the final subject rating on exit from the year or from school.

  • Check for serial 'sick' offenders,.i.e. students who always seem to be sick on exam days. Some may have chronic illnesses and the school may have a policy for this situation. Those who have no history of chronic illness need to be 'forced' to do the exam ASAP under exam conditions with the same time or even less.

Perhaps they might be given a different test and the tests could be in their time, not class time. Again, this is a school policy issue.

It is worthwhile checking the history of these students with past teachers and referring the issue to higher authorities for further intervention, e.g. parent interviews with school administration.

It is important that no student be disadvantaged through genuine illness at exam time. Additionally, they must be seen to be treated fairly in the allocation of their final grading.

Here, a teacher must use their professional judgment based on the evidence of learning in class as well as the available assessment data. Here 'like' students can be a guide to where the student lies in the class order of merit in that subject.

The website provides an eBook that looks at all aspects of examinations and other types of assessment. The eBook is "The Exam Book".

Our author, during the last 16 years of his teaching career was the Head of a Mathematics Department where he was responsible for the assessment program.

He offers practical advice that works on aspects as diverse as running a class exam up to how best to mark alternative assessment tasks.

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