Exam anxiety top concern for students at policy review

(Courtesy Alison Wood via Creative Commons)

Students were most interested in talking about the university’s exam policy at Ryerson’s second town hall meeting. (Courtesy Alison Wood via Creative Commons)

Students already had exams on the brain at Ryerson’s second town hall meeting on academic policy review last week.

The session was one of two convened by the ad hoc Academic Policy Review Committee to discuss five academic policies ranging from graduate course management to examination policies.

The second meeting was supposed to cover three policies: graduate course management, academic accommodations and appeals and examinations policy.

However, students were most interested in talking about the university’s exam policy. The policy outlines everything from the required number of invigilators to the protocol on what to do in a fire drill. But those in attendance were keen to discuss the aspects of the policy that they said are the most stressful.

Jacob Friedman, co-chair of the committee, said it was “not surprising” that the group’s conversation about medical notes — which dominated the first town hall meeting — switched to exams in the second. He said a lot of the problems students experience “are consequences of the situation that led to the medical notes,” including the pressure of exams.

Students say exams are ‘overwhelming’

Students voiced concerns about the scheduled time of exams, having more than one  a day and the grade weight of final.

Several said that they found their exams “overwhelming.” One student, who wrote an exam worth 60 per cent of her final grade in a course, said she felt it was unfair.

Marcia Moshé, interim vice-provost academic, said the committee will be looking at all of these contributing factors to evaluate whether the university can mitigate the negative health impacts. She said that one of the reasons that the town hall meetings were evaluating all five of the policies at once is because they are so interconnected — any solution would have to consider the problems across all five.

“These five policies cover a lot of information, so we are opening up to you (students) to hear your feedback on a broad range of policy issues that are covered in those five policies,” said Moshé. “Our major concern was that if we reviewed them in isolation one at a time we would not identify inconsistencies or potentially we could create inconsistencies.”

‘We’re trying to clarify the language in the policies…’

Students also voiced concerns about the unclear language used in the policies, including the exam policies, as well as how difficult it is to locate specific policies despite the student handbook’s on Ryerson’s senate office website.

“The student handbooks are meant to include school or department’s specific policies. But policies are constantly changing, so we’re hoping that within the course outline there could be a separate link with the senate’s up-to-date polices,” said Moshé. “Also we’re trying to clarify the language in the policies, for example, the difference between accommodation and consideration.”

In addition to the complaints, some students took the time to commend the committee for the work that they are doing. Some students described the committee’s review process as ”refreshing” and “effective.”

Despite mixed responses from students, John Turtle, secretary of the committee, said that he was happy with the feedback from students.

“It’s a reality check to hear from the students who are experiencing these problems. My experience as a professor and an administrator is not just to read a report during an appeal, but to see a person and to hear their sincerity and their struggle has been an eye-opener,” said Turtle. “We are happy to help, and a big part of our job is not to placate people but listen and solve the problems as best as we can.”

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