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May 8, 2005

Unprofessorial

In the wake of my posts on how the new SAT writing test rates length over quality and accuracy, and (via Brad DeLong) on how some British exam papers are being processed by Indian subcontractors, Jacqueline Passey notes that computers are now scoring exam papers too:

Student essays always seem to be riddled with the same sorts of flaws. So sociology professor Ed Brent decided to hand the work off – to a computer.
Students in Brent's Introduction to Sociology course at the University of Missouri-Columbia now submit drafts through the SAGrader software he designed. It counts the number of points he wanted his students to include and analyzes how well concepts are explained.
And within seconds, students have a score.

The report also notes that around 80% of Indiana's 60,000 11th-graders have their English assessment scored by computer, and another 10,000 ninth-graders are taking part in a trial in which computers assess some routine written assignments.

Tyler Cowen captures it:

The obvious question is what we really need professors for anyway – are we simply magnets of personality to keep students interested?

Hmm. I don’t remember any of my professors being magnets of personality (OK, maybe one or two). I also don’t recall grading exam papers being much fun. So as I said before: I’m not convinced academia should mourn this trend.

Posted by Stephen at 1:57 PM in Education | Humanity | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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