Friday, August 6, 2010

Rubber Stamp Grades

I checked. The article was not released on April 1st. It’s not a joke. Pearson is now using computers to score exams. Essay exams.

In their own literature, Pearson never highlights this aspect of their new standardized tests and is careful to avoid saying that a “computer” scores the exams. According to Pearson:
“Research shows that the automated scoring technology underlying PTE Academic produces scores comparable to human raters but with the precision, consistency and objectivity of a machine, ensuring maximum reliability and validity.”
Hmm. Really? Since I can’t see any of the research they’ve done or any of the standards they use to score the exams, there is no way for me to assess this statement, but the mere idea of a computer scoring a free-response question makes me shudder.

I’m sure many of my favorite authors would fail absolutely if graded by a computer. E.E. Cummings? -F. Douglas Adams? -F. The first threw punctuation out the window and the second never understood that you aren’t supposed to say things like:
-“It’s rather horribly like being drunk.”
-“What’s so horrible about being drunk?”
-“You ask a glass of water.”*
Technology is great. Computers are great. Progress is an excellent thing. But is more technology always progress? Some day in the future, will the computer be able to do everything, every last little thing, better than you or I can?

What do you think? Computers grading essays:
-Way of the future
-Unavoidable evil
-Unthinkable atrocity


*Douglas Adams quote written from memory. It might be a little off.

"'Robot' computer to mark English essays"
Pearson PTE

1 comment:

Alphini's Puppy Raiser said...

That's sad! I think our use of language is something that helps to define the human experience, and I'd hate to see that quantified and assessed by "automated scoring technology" matter how sophisticated!