Part of my role as an Exam Services Specialist is to proctor the exams for the veterinary students. There are three different classes (first year, second year, and third year). I’m responsible for previewing, editing, revising, and scoring the exams for the first year students. But, when it comes to proctoring exams, all three Exam Specialists help each other out.
On Monday, I helped my co-worker proctor a second-year exam.
I don’t know her students as well because I primarily communicate with the first years (and I’m still new), but I don’t really need to know them because I’m simply watching to see whether they 1) are cheating or 2) have technical issues and need some support.
The procedure of an exam goes a little something like this:
1) Students are let into the exam room at 7:45AM. They are still technically allowed to use their computers and/or old-school notebooks to study the material.
2) At around 7:57, we make an announcement to close all computer programs and put away all notes. During this time, the students open up the program that they take the exam on.
3) At 8:00AM, I display the password on the screen that the students will use to log-on to the exam. Once they log on to the exam, all background programs are no longer accessible.
4) After I display the password, we pass out scratch paper for the students to use. Each student gets a single piece of paper that they must turn in – even if it goes unused. That’s our way of ensuring that no information leaves the exam and that we’ve accounted for each student.
5) Students take and complete the exam.
Now, again, I’m still new around here but I’ve been taught to follow certain procedures and guidelines and to never stray from the 5 steps listed above. But I may have been a little too “by the books” on Monday.
What happened Monday?
At 8:01am, after all scratch paper had been passed out to the students, I walked around the room to ensure everyone was logged in to the exam. One of the students – I noticed – had kept two pieces of the scratch paper. She was using one of them as scratch paper and the other one was sitting next to her laptop – folded in half.
I reached over to pick it up because I had been told – over and over again – that students were only given one sheet of scratch paper. She turned in her seat to stare at me, gave me a confused look, and said, “That’s mine, I need it.”
I didn’t really want to engage in conversation about it while other students were testing so I handed back the paper and then grabbed my phone to text my co-worker. She was the one in charge of this particular cohort and I wanted her to be aware of the situation but she was on the other end of the lecture hall and couldn’t see what was happening.
I texted her, “The girl in the last row with glasses on took an extra sheet of scratch paper. Is that allowed?”
She quickly texted back and said, “She uses it as a screen cover. Stand behind her and watch.”
So I did.
I walked toward the back of the room to watch her as she clicked to display the next question. She picked up the folded sheet of paper, lifted it up to her computer screen, and covered up the answer choices as she read the question to herself.
After she had independently solved the answer, she uncovered the choices and confidently selected the right one.
Later, after the exam was over and all students had left the room, I had a really great chat with my co-worker. I asked her how, out of 150 students in the second-year class, she knew that that particular student needed an extra piece of paper.
She said, “It’s all about relationships.”
It’s all about knowing your students. That student, in particular, had a tendency to get distracted by all the text in front of her. All she needed was a simple piece of paper to “mask” the answer choices until she was ready for them.
You can’t always be a stickler for the rules. You can’t expect to impose your rules and regulations without seeking feedback from the receiving end.
My co-worker welcomed students’ input and advice about the testing environment. She made sure to check in with students who looked like they needed a little extra lovin’.
She was – essentially – providing accommodations to the students who needed it. In a way that didn’t jeopardize the compliance or security of the test.
We forget that when we grow out of the K-12 system, we must advocate for ourselves. And we forget that, as “adults,” it’s OK to ask for what we need. Simple accommodations can help us perform better at our jobs, our grad school examinations, our LIFE.
I learned a pretty valuable lesson on Monday.
Grown-ups need accommodations too.
Questions of the Day:
- What accommodations or supports do you need to help you perform most effectively?