Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Discuss any aspect of applying for posts or courses (apart from the clinical psychology doctorate which has its own forum section), CVs, application forms, etc
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Spatch
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Spatch »

With the increased pool of grads and the huge variation across the sample, it's not unimaginable to have recruitment geared towards those 'in the know' and personal connections to services a bit like it was in the old days. Listening to my old supervisors stories of mixed cohorts of in-service training and ad hoc backgrounds, as well as a lack of consistency and standardisation, it's a wonder anyone trained at all before 1975.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

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Geishawife wrote: Tue Oct 26, 2021 5:38 pm I guess it could be any or all of those things, but I do agree that grade inflation/positive feedback only is a huge issue. Having given some feedback to unsuccessful candidates, some were genuinely shocked that they were not the "shining stars" they believed themselves to be!
I had an email today from a new grad currently in a classroom assistant post who said [anonymised and slightly paraphrased]:
I'm looking to gain clinical experience before I apply to a clinical psychology doctorate. The 'assistant psychologist/fieldworker' role you advertised emphasises it is more of a research role rather than a clinical role and has a start date before I want to leave my current post. I learned that you have an 'assistant clinical psychologist' on your team which is far more suited to the experience that I would love to gain, so I wondered when that position will be advertised.
I suspect s/he will be similarly surprised and disappointed by my reply :(
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by lingua_franca »

miriam wrote: Sun Oct 24, 2021 9:07 pm I also wonder whether the approach of some applicants reflects all the confidence of grade inflation and having been given only positive feedback, because they seem to genuinely believe that they are the best thing ever, despite their total lack of experience or relevant skills.
This is something I see as a lecturer. A few years ago I taught a third-year module at a university I'd never worked at previously to cover a lecturer on long-term sick leave. There was a chorus of complaints about my marking being too harsh. One student wrote to me personally to say that he wanted a meeting with me "to resolve this injustice", and that if I didn't meet with him, he would "file for malpractice" (?!). He kept insisting he knew the essay should have a First because he'd got a First on another assignment in a different module. The entitlement shook me, as until that point I was used to students taking my feedback seriously and asking how to improve, not getting belligerent because they didn't get the grades they'd awarded themselves. Since then I've had a lot more of these complaints and it seems to be getting worse.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

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This is something I see as a lecturer. A few years ago I taught a third-year module at a university I'd never worked at previously to cover a lecturer on long-term sick leave. There was a chorus of complaints about my marking being too harsh. One student wrote to me personally to say that he wanted a meeting with me "to resolve this injustice", and that if I didn't meet with him, he would "file for malpractice" (?!). He kept insisting he knew the essay should have a First because he'd got a First on another assignment in a different module. The entitlement shook me, as until that point I was used to students taking my feedback seriously and asking how to improve, not getting belligerent because they didn't get the grades they'd awarded themselves. Since then I've had a lot more of these complaints and it seems to be getting worse.
It happens because it works. Universities for the last 20 years pretty much sell themselves on 'student experience', 'supported learning' and 'pathways to work' in order to collect fees than being about rigorous intellectual inquiry and cultivating traits needed to generate knowledge. The corporate university also treats it staff as service workers who have to pacify customers. Also the shifts in secondary education are more about teaching to test and solid answers, rather than nurturing genuine depth of study, originality and reflective thought (which is what a first was supposed to indicate).

With that context in mind, it would almost be weird if the students were suddenly okay with being told their work is inadequate and where their deficiencies are. It would be like turning up at a restaurant and being told to cook the food yourself, then being criticised for not being as good as their chef.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Geishawife »

Spatch wrote: Tue Nov 02, 2021 7:36 pm
This is something I see as a lecturer. A few years ago I taught a third-year module at a university I'd never worked at previously to cover a lecturer on long-term sick leave. There was a chorus of complaints about my marking being too harsh. One student wrote to me personally to say that he wanted a meeting with me "to resolve this injustice", and that if I didn't meet with him, he would "file for malpractice" (?!). He kept insisting he knew the essay should have a First because he'd got a First on another assignment in a different module. The entitlement shook me, as until that point I was used to students taking my feedback seriously and asking how to improve, not getting belligerent because they didn't get the grades they'd awarded themselves. Since then I've had a lot more of these complaints and it seems to be getting worse.
It happens because it works. Universities for the last 20 years pretty much sell themselves on 'student experience', 'supported learning' and 'pathways to work' in order to collect fees than being about rigorous intellectual inquiry and cultivating traits needed to generate knowledge. The corporate university also treats it staff as service workers who have to pacify customers. Also the shifts in secondary education are more about teaching to test and solid answers, rather than nurturing genuine depth of study, originality and reflective thought (which is what a first was supposed to indicate).

With that context in mind, it would almost be weird if the students were suddenly okay with being told their work is inadequate and where their deficiencies are. It would be like turning up at a restaurant and being told to cook the food yourself, then being criticised for not being as good as their chef.
Sorry Spatch, I have to disagree. You say it works. Works for whom? To be honest, it seems to me the only beneficiaries are "the bean counters". I can't see how this works for the universities and their staff, who are (rightly or wrongly) increasingly being seen as "dumbed down" and "soft". It certainly doesn't seem to work for the students, some of whom would appear to leave with the erroneous belief they are the best thing ever and are totally unprepared for the reality check that hits them when they apply for jobs. If the universities are promising pathways to work then, in my experience, they are failing MANY of their students. I was pretty stunned by some of the responses to feedback and it was very evident that some people had expected to "walk it" without any effort or thought going in to their application.

I would also contest your restaurant analogy - this is not about being asked to prepare your own meal and then criticised for it. It is far more reflective of people entering a restaurant kitchen and telling the chef "I've been told I'm a fantastic cook and I can do better than you", then not understanding why the meal they prepare is not up to scratch.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by miriam »

Indeed. It is another example of what happens when the government marketise a sector that was working to different values. I can't see any beneficiaries - except perhaps the government, who can claim that marks have improved since they slashed funding to justify their policy.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

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Sorry Spatch, I have to disagree. You say it works. Works for whom? To be honest, it seems to me the only beneficiaries are "the bean counters". I can't see how this works for the universities and their staff, who are (rightly or wrongly) increasingly being seen as "dumbed down" and "soft". It certainly doesn't seem to work for the students, some of whom would appear to leave with the erroneous belief they are the best thing ever and are totally unprepared for the reality check that hits them when they apply for jobs. If the universities are promising pathways to work then, in my experience, they are failing MANY of their students. I was pretty stunned by some of the responses to feedback and it was very evident that some people had expected to "walk it" without any effort or thought going in to their application.
I am not saying I like it, or if it is even sustainable in the long term.

It works insofar as:

- Students/parents feel good that they get good grades and are getting 'the product/experience' that they pay for.
- Universities score well in the NSS because they don't upset their customers, which makes administrators happy.
- Governments can talk about improved access and more people in higher education, as Miriam points out.

It can't work in the longer term as you rightly point out due to the longer term problems. But these longer term problems are divorced from the short term gains and usually happen further downstream. A grade-happy undergrad psychology department doesn't care that a DClinPsy programme or graduate employer elsewhere has to judge between a cohort of everyone getting firsts, so they then up their thresholds or introduce their own tests. It does undermine the university and ultimately the student themselves.

Let's look at the opposite though. If we took universities back to being insular intellectual communities that push highly motivated and heavily pre-selected students as far as they can, that only can ever work for a small number of people and you will get massive failure rates, lack of diversity and a fairly skewed graduate workforce. I suspect it may work well for me personally (although maybe not due to belonging to a minority), but I don't even think that would work well for doctoral level clinical psychology, because we do need a spread of rank-and-file clinicians as well as the next Sigmund Freuds. There is a happy medium that could be a radical rethink of how we supply skilled workers for a post industrial knowledge economy (which clinical psychology is part of), but I think the current system will work until it doesn't- then it will change.

Sucks for you (and me) though.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

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It isn't binary. They could give broader grade spread without being super-elitist. They could still take on a large number and diversity of individuals and support the range of people who are good potential additions to the health and social care workforce to gain knowledge related to psychology, without making everyone believe they are above average. That way people will have a better sense of how they compare to their peers, and some will see earlier on that they may not be at a level that is competitive for the most sought after jobs and training opportunities (and be able to make informed decisions as a result). The spread of grades doesn't determine the number of training places on doctoral courses, or the number of relevant posts individuals are competing for.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by lingua_franca »

It puts academics in a very difficult position. I was discussing this with my line manager a few months ago. She feels it's vital to give realistic marks, but she's troubled by the fact that the student to whom she gave a 54 might have had a 60 at a different institution. After graduation that student will be judged against peers who may have got a better degree class, but truthfully were not better students.

I can see her concern, because at the five institutions I've taught at, some were definitely inflating grades to a much greater extent than others. This is why I've grown uncomfortable with the idea that all degrees leading to a particular accreditation are equal. I'm no longer confident that's true.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Fenella »

This is interesting to me; I've just finished an MSc conversion course, which was conducted entirely online, and left a lot of students dissatisfied with their grades. I believe some course convenors marked MUCH harsher than others, and also had differing attitudes about how much help to give, e.g., one convenor wouldn't give any suggested reading because "it's Master's level, you should be able to find it independently", while others gave long reading lists.

I was lucky in that I loved the course (well, the content! Not the administrative issues) and came out with a distinction. My view on the students' complaints is that they had a point about some things, but perhaps also had some unrealistic expectations as well. Eg:

- Some people complained about how much they hated stats/writing research papers, but still wanted to do a doctorate, apparently in the belief that psychologists are (as I've seen suggested before on this forum) basically well-paid and prestigious therapists.
- Some had the belief that they should get high grades because they worked hard - that laziness was the only thing which should result in a lower grade (from students who were told they had poor writing style, lack of insight, etc). This might result from the valorisation of hard work in society; I think there is a general perception that "if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything" and it's hurtful and almost taboo to refer to inherent aptitude.
- I do think there was a HUGE problem with overcrowding the course - the staff were clearly overwhelmed with the number of students. Emails would routinely go unanswered, feedback was delayed and often frustratingly brief! I think it is reasonable to be upset about being given a 55 for an essay you busted a gut over, with just a couple of brutal sentences in the way of feedback.
- There were other things which seemed outright unfair e.g. the course convenor who offered to give feedback on drafts, returned fairly positive feedback with few indications of anything to change, then gave low marks on the final version.

Essentially I agree that a broader spread of marks should be given and people shouldn't be made to artificially think they're above average, but this needs to be balanced with a) managing students' expectations right from the start and b) showing a bit of sensitivity! You can't give low marks with brief, dismissive feedback and expect students not to be upset. With respect to managing expectations, I don't think universities do this enough (or at all), and they seem to be incentivised against it - they need to get bums on seats at the end of the day...
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

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Yeah, there is a lot of inequality, not enough transparency and not enough staffing time per student to give the level of support and feedback that could help people produce their best work. It is far from an ideal system, sadly.
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