Ok, but WHY?

Midway through our latest rotation, we got word that the marks for our first theory block of fourth year (Infections and Clinical Immunology) were out.

As has been our custom for what will soon be half a decade, we dropped whatever we were doing–who needs to attend Tuts? Who cares about ward rounds?–and raced to the admin building to gaze upon the marks’ board.

And what a sight to behold.

With a class average of 52%–taking into account that one of the two papers, which admittedly weighed the least, was open book–there was a familiar if comforting silence in the passage. Familiar, because we hadn’t seen marks this dismal since second year, although there were plenty of opportunities in third. Comforting because it meant that, if enough of us had done badly, surely there was some mistake? Some cause to complain? Some evidence that we weren’t the most clueless students to grace the halls of this fine institution of higher learning?

Within a couple of days, the secretary had been bombarded with so many e-mails and requests to review individual papers, that the Head of the Infections and Clinical Immunology module consented to holding a ‘feedback session’ during which we could all ‘discuss the paper’.

Many of us relaxed. They would listen. They couldn’t ignore us in our numbers. They couldn’t hide marking injustices from all of us simultaneously.

But a day before said feedback session–which was conveniently scheduled for a timeslot during which many of us had ward rounds or tuts or other obligations–we got a brief e-mail informing us that it had been decided that nobody would get to actually see their own papers, but rather that there would be a more general discussion of the questions asked.

I smelled something fishy, but I ignored the instinct that stemmed from my inherent distrust of The Administration.

On the day of the ‘feedback session’, we all gathered in a small classroom according to preselected timeslots and it was clear that this would not be a discussion. It would be a rebuke.

Over the course of the next hour, we heard everything from…

“This question tested insight, so simply parroting what you memorized would not be sufficient. You guys need to discover new ways to learn.”


“This question was literally based on the slides. If you’d taken the time to memorize all the points and written them out exactly as presented you would have achieved full marks. You guys need to discover new ways to learn.”

Okay, if you say so…

That much I think most of us were willing to overlook. But when we arrived at a heavily weighted question about an ARV drug we’d NEVER had a SINGLE lecture about–I, having been to all lectures except the SARS one which I revised immediately anyway, would bet my left butt cheek on it–and pointed this out, the cheeky response was:
“Impossible. This is exactly last year’s final exam.”
To which we all said:
“Yes, but that class clearly had the lecture.”
To which we received the reply:
“I’ll…check. But regardless, you could open any ARV guideline resource and find out about it.”
To which our reply was:
“Um…nobody told us we had to memorize the ARV guideline book as well.”
To which we received the retort:
“This is adult learning.”

Okay. So let me get this straight. On top of the lectures and notes that we already have to master, we’re expected to read and memorize every auxiliary source there is on every topic we cover? On the off chance that there’ll be 10% of our paper based one of those many sources?

That definitely seems reasonable.

At this point, most people stopped responding to requests for ‘feedback’, seeing as there was an answer for every mistake or injustice we pointed out. Even when we lamented the use of previously unused terminology in another heavily weighted follow-on question, terminology that threw most of us completely off, the curt reply was:
“Everybody uses that term. Even if we never taught it, you should know it.”

Great. Glad that’s been cleared up.

Here’s my thing: Why go to all the trouble of assembling us for a FEEDBACK session if you’re just going to shoot down anything that’s said–even the most valid criticisms like We were never GIVEN that lecture–and spend an entire hour berating us for not studying hard enough while studying too hard? I mean, do you really want to cover your ass (please excuse my wording) that much? Would it not be better to just release the marks and be done with it, rather than pretending to care why most of the class did so poorly? Clearly you have all the answers. Clearly we’re at fault. Clearly we’re just looking for someone to blame.

I mean, why even bother?


1 Comment

Filed under Infections and Clinical Immunology, ranting

One response to “Ok, but WHY?

  1. Oooh yeaaaah. I remember that exam. And nope, we didn’t have the lecture. We hated that exam as much as you guys hated the test… it was ridiculous.
    My class stopped asking for feedback sessions for this exact reason. Did you guys report it to academic affairs? Although pessimistically I’m not even sure it would help. Medical education needs a serious overhaul but the profs are too proud to see that.

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