My Scholarly Reflections

This is where I tell what I think, so that I see what I say

How do I know when I fail (or do I really want to know!)

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Managers in the corporate world often know when they fail: Products not sold, revenue targets not met etc. Feedback systems get into action: Outcomes are often visible and often quanitifiable, consequences are often immediate, the ‘bottom line’ is hit. When this does not happen, consequences are disastrous: Enron and Global Financial Crisis. More dramatically, I love to give the example of driving a car, or learning to drive a car. One wrong move, and the outcomes are visible and often disastrous. Success or failure is  often clear cut.

When I fail in class, things are not often so clear cut. It is often not clear what is success or failure! Feedback systems are not efficient. Feedback is often verbal, based on what students say, and that comes too late. Self assessment of success or failure is also problematic, given the subjective (and emotional) connotations of failure, as a senior professor muses on her experience in an article titled ‘Failure and learning’, on the higher education portal ‘Faculty Focus’ here. Failure is private, painful and failure becomes “a measure of our inherent worth as human beings…”

Nature of content may contribute to problems in measuring success or failure. Accounting, finance and similar ‘quantitative’ units are somewhat less problematic. There are clear cut heuristics that students need to master; visually identifiable steps leading to whether assessments conform to a standard template of structured answers.Other more messy domains such as HRM, entrepreneurship and the like are not so amenable to clear rule based structured problem solving. In many ways, arguably, learning to drive is closer to learning accounting; learning HRM is probably not.


Written by Amer Khan

May 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm

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