Equity Concerns over MBChB Progress Test 27

Josh McCormack made this Official Information request to University of Auckland

Currently waiting for a response from University of Auckland, they must respond promptly and normally no later than (details and exceptions).

From: Josh McCormack

Dear University of Auckland,

I am writing to clarify expectations placed on students by the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences [FMHS] for Progress Test 27 [PT27] for the University of Auckland Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery programme [MBChB], scheduled to take place on Tuesday October 26, 2021.

According to a statement issued by FMHS staff on 30 September 2021 at 13:00, the announcement stated that “[FMHS staff] have been informed that permission to run PT27 on site, in person at Covid-19 alert level 2 has been withdrawn, due to the highly transmissible nature of the Delta variant. Progress Tests are very important for [medical student] learning and progression so we do not wish to cancel the test. Therefore, this change has necessitated a sudden switch from paper to online delivery”.

Students have expressed significant concern over the sudden change in operations of this test. Despite this, students feel as though there has been insufficient clarity provided to address these concerns.

Firstly, the initial update informed students that the Inspera invigilation software will work on “macOS: OS X 10.12 or later”. However, according to an updated webpage on the University of Auckland website entitled “Invigilated (supervised) examinations”, the Inspera invigilation software will only work on “macOS: OS X 10.14 or later”. While this might seem negligible, it has become apparent to many of us that this software capacity correlates to macOS products that were released around the time our undergraduate Year 4 MBChB students started our University education. Considering most of us purchased new laptops around this time, there are plenty of students who are experiencing the problem of not being able to update to the macOS 10.14 software. From reading the initial announcement, we thought we would have been fine with macOS 10.12 software.

With this new understanding that the Inspera invigiliation software only works for macOS 10.14, one of our Year 4 MBChB students contacted an FMHS staff member asking for support for this matter. In response to their email, an FMHS staff member replied saying “Students were notified 4weeks [sic] ago to check their devices and organise for alternative arrangements”.

Question 1: Can you please provide the statement in question that was issued by the FMHS four weeks ago, which details the steps that students needed to take if they do not own a device that operates macOS 10.14 or later?

With continued instability and uncertainty of living conditions due to the ongoing lockdown, students are finding this period incredibly stressful. Receiving a response like “Students were notified 4weeks [sic] ago to check their devices and organise for alternative arrangements” is not only unhelpful, but also harmful for perpetuating and strengthening the embarrassment and guilt faced by students who cannot afford new devices.

Considering many students have already lost four weeks of summer work time due to compulsory clinical placement compensation time, the inability of our students to complete summer work to save money is already causing an immense, unforeseen stress. For students who cannot work over summer, it is particularly frustrating for our inability to afford brand new devices to be reflected back on us as ‘professional integrity’ accountability.

Moreover, many students have ongoing uncertainty around their examination conditions for PT27. For example, one of the students in our Tauranga Cohort does not have a suitable set-up to sit their PT27 examination in their living place in Tauranga. This student has made plans to drive home to Taranaki for labour weekend so that they have a stable setting to sit their PT27 exam with a proper desk and a quiet environment. However, this student will not know for certain whether these test conditions will remain available to them until 1:00pm on Monday 25 October when Jacinda Ardern makes her 1:00pm announcement.

Question 2: For students who do not have an appropriate location to sit PT27, could you please provide the most updated statement from the FMHS around what steps should be taken by these students?

Considering our PT27 grades are determined by our standing in the class relative to our peers, many students are stressed at the prospect that their differential time on clinical placement compared to other members of their cohort could affect their grades.

Question 3: What policies does the FMHS have in place to ensure students who have lost significant placement time, particularly in Auckland cohorts, have a clinically-equivalent experience to students in Tauranga, Rotorua or Waikato cohorts before sitting PT27?

Considering our PT27 grades are determined by our standing in the class relative to our peers, students are concerned there will be great incentive for people to cheat as all of our students know that the PT27 scoring is currently planned to be competitive against our classmates, as per protocol for previous progress tests. Students are nervous about the prospect of being graded as borderline or fail for approaching the test honestly, knowing that a dedicated percentage of students will be offered fail or borderline grades.

Question 4: What policies does the FMHS have in place to ensure bathroom breaks will be standardised and invigilated consistently across our entire medical student body?

Considering this a brand new assessment method that is new for all of our students, many students have approached our class representatives asking if assessment can be formative. Many of us do indeed want to complete the test so we can track our own progress, but we feel it is unfair for our students to be graded against each other when there are glaringly obvious equity issues with the sudden change in test set-up.

Question 5: Could the FMHS please provide its most updated statement detailing the reasons why formative assessment, or some other form of grade relief, has been deemed inappropriate for this assessment?

We look forward to hearing your equity-minded response to these concerns.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

Yours faithfully,

Josh McCormack

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