Grading at Sasin, part II

May 10, 2013

Earlier I wrote a piece about how we receive our final grades at Sasin and complained about the lack of details we get for most courses. The first year of my MBA is over now and with all the knowledge I have gained in the past year I now feel like going a bit deeper into the issue of grading at Sasin.

Not much information is being shared here.

Not much information is being shared here.

During the course “HR in a global environment” my group did some research about generation Y, people born in the ’80 and later; this includes about every student in my class, and one of the items we found was that this generation, we, have a desire to get feedback on things we do and we prefer to get this feedback as soon as possible after completing something. With other words: the longer the period between finishing a course and receiving a grade, the less we care about the grade and the feedback.

Days till we received our final grade. Counted from the day we handed in our last assignment or exam, till receiving an email with our grade.

Days till we received our final grade. Counted from the day we handed in our last assignment or exam till receiving an email with our grade.

In the table above you can see how long it took for every course in the first year from finishing that course, for example by handing in a final paper or writing the final exam, till receiving the grade by email. Since exams are often taken in weekends or on non-Buddhist holidays I included weekends and holidays in the count of days till we received our grades.

As becomes visible there is a huge difference between professors how long it takes for them to grade our work. On one side we have an extreme with Marketing 1, where professor Fenwick had our final grades delivered 5 days after writing the final exam, and  on the other side we have 4 courses which took longer than 2 months to be graded, with two extremes, sustainability management 2, and macroeconomics, which took almost 3 months.

Feedback from professor Ian Fenwick on one of the cases we had to hand in.

Feedback from professor Ian Fenwick on one of the cases we had to hand in.

Of course it is not totally fair to compare the speed of getting feedback between courses, and professors, since some exams are open question and therefore take more effort to grade, while other exams have a multiple choice part or just require an answer in one or two sentences. It is therefore pretty normal that sustainability management 2 took pretty long since the final report was maybe over 50 pages long, and the same goes for business strategy where we had to hand in a research report at the end of the course. But is this really a valid reason? In case we had to write a report it was always written in a group of 5-6 people. Our whole class produced around 14 reports in total only. And take for example Marketing 1 again; the final exam consisted of several open questions which you could answer in any way you saw fit. This makes it extremely difficult for the professor to grade since there is no “right” answer and still we got our grades back after only 5 days.

It is too bad Sasin and its professors only impose deadlines on students and not on themselves, we therefore have no clue how long it takes before we get our grades back and it can take anywhere between 5 days and 3 months.

Feedback given by professor Steven Miranda on the presentation our group gave.

Feedback given by professor Steven Miranda on the presentation our group gave.

Also the level of feedback we get differs a lot between courses. For me it would be very useful to get details of how we were graded instead of just a grade. Besides that you get to know if you had the questions right you thought you knew, you also get some insight which ways of answering a question is being appreciated by others. Is a rant good enough to get full marks, or do you have to actually structure your answer? Is giving a reasoning enough, or should you add some examples? Should the examples be realistic or can you make it something more absurd to bring your point across?

Notes made by professor Steven Miranda. You can see he read every sentence and spent time on giving you feedback.

Notes made by professor Steven Miranda. You can see he read every sentence and spent time on giving you feedback.

So far one course sticks out by head and shoulders on the level and quality of feedback: HR in a global environment. Most questions on the exam were open questions and even without asking we got back everything we handed in including notes the professor had written on the papers. This is similar to the level of feedback we got for Marketing 1, but professor Miranda even added some extra things like the average score and highest score per question, the lowest scores were omitted because it would not be very constructive to publicly humiliate someone for having the worst score.

The average scores per question. This way you can see how well you did compared to the rest of the class (course: HR in a global environment).

The average scores per question. This way you can see how well you did compared to the rest of the class (course: HR in a global environment).

One extra document was even added after the first exam: an overview with the best answers he had received for each question. So while several people scored full points on certain questions he would select the best answer out of those and handed it out without giving the name of the author. This way everybody was able to read “the best answer” meaning another learning opportunity how to construct a good argument and how to apply the stuff we learned so far.

The best answer for each exam question was also (anonymously) distributed to give an idea how you could have approached that question also.

The best answer for each exam question was also (anonymously) distributed to give an idea how you could have approached that question also.

So if this can be seen as “best practice”, why don’t more professors start delivering feedback in a similar way? By putting some extra time in giving decent feedback you might have the luck that students will learn a lot more from your course and they might even remember you for more things than just some good jokes a few years in the future.

The whole folder with everything we created during the course "HR in a global context", including the feedback.

The whole folder with everything we created during the course “HR in a global context”, including the feedback.

In my view it is mostly the students to blame for this lack of decent feedback. Apparently most students are not interested in anything but their final grade. This became obvious with, again, the course “HR in a global environment” where the professor indicated every student would be able to pick up his or her folder with feedback about 2 weeks after the final exam. Since the professor would have left Thailand already by then, as is normal for visiting professors, you could just go by his assistant and ask for your folder. When I came by to pick up my folder a few weeks after the exam it appeared I was one of the first to actually stop by, and even after over 2 months there are still a bunch of folders waiting for their owner to show up. If students are too lazy to take an elevator to the 8th floor to come and pick up their folder with feedback than I totally understand why professors don’t want to take the effort of writing feedback.

For questions/remarks you can contact me at: eric@stuckinthailand.com

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