Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Machine-scored student ESSAYS???!!!

Well, of course you already knew that "higher education" in this country was in trouble; but here's a bit more evidence of the fact: Harvard, M.I.T., and University of California, Berkeley, are now on board with EdX ESSAY-grading software, which offers professors a break from the tedium of grading students essay exams and term papers.

John Markoff's "Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break" New York Times, April 4, 2013) suggests:
Imagine taking a college exam, and, instead of handing in a blue book and getting a grade from a professor a few weeks later, clicking the “send” button when you are done and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program.
While proponents cite the advantages of "instant feedback," skeptics are rightly skeptical.

A group calling itself "Professionals Against Machine Scoring of Student Essays in High-Stakes Assessment," which has collected nearly 2,000 signatures, including some from luminaries like Noam Chomsky, states:
Let’s face the realities of automatic essay scoring ... Computers cannot ‘read.’ They cannot measure the essentials of effective written communication: accuracy, reasoning, adequacy of evidence, good sense, ethical stance, convincing argument, meaningful organization, clarity, and veracity, among others.
Needless to say, EdX expects its software to be adopted widely by schools and universities, and this fall, it will add classes from Wellesley, Georgetown and the University of Texas. The future of sales looks bright!

[Hat tip to SHMS colleagues]

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