Monday, December 24, 2012

Marking projects

Just marking yet another project. As every marker should be aware, it is, of course, not a criterion for a good project that it should make sense. That really would be expecting a bit much! All I check for is reasonable compliance to the conventions of projects – complete and properly formatted references, some discussion of methodology, some aims and conclusions, and something that could count analysis, whatever that means.
                What have we got today? The one I’ve just read is on leadership and the third age. Usual sort of rubbish. Skims through the platitudes from the gurus: leadership is obviously a good thing, best if it’s authentic, etc, etc. I’m really not sure what this has to do with the third age, but let’s read on and see where we get to. Next we get the usual platitudes about using a qualitative approach, before presenting a purely quantitative list of average responses to questions asking for opinions of the state of play on a 1 to 5 scale. “How important do you think leadership is?” And lots of similar questions. These averages seem to be the answer. This is obviously a good student because she’s thought of working out averages. Usually you just get bar charts with bars representing strongly agree, agree etc – completely impossible to take in.
                But what’s this got to do with the third age? I’m really not sure, except that the respondents to her questionnaire were third agers. But what leaders are they talking about? Who is being led? Who cares?
                This project is very typical. The approach seems to be to start with a topic – in this case leadership and the third age. Then you ask a haphazard assortment of people their opinions about the topic, usually on a 1-5 scale, after a little essay on qualitative research and not reducing people to numbers. Obviously the haphazard assortment of people will know little about the topic, and certainly won’t put any thought into answering the questions. Then you take the average of these opinions, and present this as the answer. Why does anybody think this makes any sense?
                Or, at least I think that’s the way it works. I couldn’t face reading most of it. But there were a couple of aims, and couple of conclusions which sort of linked up with the aims, a questionnaire, a few graphs, and a list of references … so it must be OK. It will get a good pass mark.

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