Bias Relating to Evaluations


FILE: Report #321
DATE: February 19, 2008
PARTIES: Mr. J.V. (the Student) v. Graduate Department of Architecture, Landscape and Design

Hearing Date(s): Monday December 10, 2007

Committee Members:
Professor L. Sossin (Chair)
Mr. Ken Davy (Student)
Professor Ellen Hodnett
Professor Joel Kirsh
Professor Louise Lemieux-Charles

Judicial Affairs Officer:
Ms. Nancy Smart

Appearances:

For the Student Appellant:
Mr. J.V. (the Student)

For the Graduate Department of Architecture, Landscape and Design:
Professor J. Danahy
Professor E. Kesik

Graduate Department of Architecture, Landscape and Design – course grade appeal – instructor bias – no basis to question instructor’s overall assessment of the Student’s participation – no unfairness where same grading scheme was applied to all students, and not contrary to any information provided to students – no credible basis in the evidence presented for allegation of bias – appeal dismissed

Appeal from a grade of B- in a course and from a grade of B in another course. The grounds of the appeal related to alleged bias of the courses’ instructor. The Student disputed a failing grade of 50% which had been assigned to the class participation mark, worth 5% of the total course mark, and a B grade in the fourth assignment worth 40% of the of the total course mark. The Student believed that his grade in one of the courses was not calculated properly. The Committee upheld the majority of the Divisional Appeal Board’s finding that the instructor’s recollection was sufficient for the purposes of the participation grade. The Committee found that there was no basis to question the instructor’s overall assessment of the Student’s participation. The Committee agreed with the majority of the Divisional Appeal Board that the issue regarding the calculation of the grade was one of consistency and equity to all students. The Committee found that if the same grading scheme was applied to all students, and was not contrary to any information provided to students, then no unfairness could arise in relation to the Student. The Committee accepted the Divisional Appeals Board finding of no evidence of bias on the part of the instructor, finding that there was no credible basis in the evidence presented for the Student’s view that he had been treated unfairly. Appeal dismissed.



FILE: Report #297
DATE: May 9, 2005
PARTIES: Ms. P (the Student) v. OISE/UT

Hearing Date(s): April 26, 2005

Committee Members:
Prof. Emeritus Ralph Scane, Chair
Prof. Clare Beghtol
Mrs. Shari Graham Fell
Mr. Stefan Neata
Prof. Ian McDonald

Secretary:
Mr. Andrew Drummond

In Attendance:

For the Appellant:
Ms. K. Roach (Counsel)
Ms. P. (the Student)

For OISE/UT:
Ms. R. Cambell (Counsel)
Ms. L. Cowin
Mr. J. Mazurek

OISE/UT – request to repeat practicum session – first and second practicum sessions failed – performance affected by illness – allegation of bias – classroom skills adversely affected by illness – supervisors did not have opportunity to consider or mitigate effects of illness – Associate teacher was aware of failure of first practicum session – appropriate test of bias is “whether a reasonably informed bystander could reasonably perceive bias on the part of the adjudicator” – knowledge of previous failure might predispose adjudicator failing student again – same faculty advisor in both practicums – threshold test met for reasonable apprehension of bias – appeal allowed – minority opinion that but for the effects of illness the Student would still not have been able to overcome the defects in classroom performance and that flaws in the Student’s performance were already a matter of serious concern before the Student’s failure in the first practicum became known – appeal allowed – failure in the second practicum vacated and the Student allowed to repeat it – recommendation that the Faculty reconsider its appeal process regarding practicums

Request to repeat the second practicum session. The Student failed the first and second practicum sessions and therefore failed the year in the B.Ed programme. The Student claimed that her performance was adversely affected by her diabetes, which was diagnosed part way through the course, and that there was a lack of procedural fairness in her assessment, as the Associate teacher evaluating her discovered halfway through the practicum session that the Student had failed the earlier practicum session. The Committee considered the Student’s medical condition and found that her classroom skills were adversely affected by the effects of her illness and that her supervisors did not have the opportunity to consider or take steps to mitigate these effects. The Committee found that had the Student not been suffering from the fatigue associated with diabetes, she may have been able to pass the practicum. The Committee considered the allegation of bias and found that the Associate teacher was aware that the Student had failed the first practicum session, and that as per the Divisional Appeals Committee Decision, there should always be two independent assessments of a teacher candidate. The Committee stated that it is not necessary for the Student to prove, or for the Committee to find, that bias actually existed and entered into the decision to fail the Student in order to allow the appeal. The appropriate test approved by courts is “whether a reasonably informed bystander could reasonably perceive bias on the part of the adjudicator.” The Committee stated that an adjudicator’s knowledge of a previous failure might positively predispose the adjudicator to finding negative factors to justify failing the student again and discourage him or her from advancing positive arguments in favour of the student as forcefully as he or she might otherwise do. In addition to the Associate teacher, the Committee found that the faculty advisor in the second practicum was also the faculty advisor in the first practicum. The Committee found that the combination of these two sources of possible bias, operating in the assessment of a student whose then relevant skills would not provide much margin over a minimum pass and which were adversely affected by her illness, met the threshold test for reasonable apprehension of bias. A minority of the Committee found that, but for the effects of the illness on the Student’s performance, she would still not have been able to overcome the defects in her classroom performance and that the flaws in the Student’s performance during the second practicum were already a matter of serious concern before the Student’s failure in the first practicum became known. Appeal allowed. The Committee ordered that the failure in the second practicum be vacated and that the Student have the opportunity to repeat the practicum during the next round. The Committee stated its concern regarding the Faculty’s appeal process which does not allow a student appealing a failed first practicum to continue to the second until the appeal is determined. The Committee stated that it did not wish to form a conclusion on the matter but recommended that the process be reconsidered because it appears to create a financial disincentive to the exercise of a right to appeal.



FILE: Report #290
DATE: February 2, 2004
PARTIES: Ms. L. (the Student) v. The School of Graduate Studies

Hearing Date(s): December 3, 2003

Committee Members:
Assistant Dean Jane Kidner, Chair
Professor Phil Byer
Professor John Furedy
Professor David Jenkins
Mr. Adam Watson

Secretary:
Mr. Paul Holmes, Judicial Affairs Officer

Appearances:

For the Student:
Ms. L. (the “Student”)

For SGS:
Professor Joan Cherry, Associate Dean, Division II (Social Sciences), SGS
Ms. Jane Alderdice, Coordinator, Policy, Program and Liaison, SGS
Professor Anne Jordon, Associate Chair, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning (the “Graduate Department”), OISE/UT

School of Graduate Studies – request for examination to be remarked by external examiner – Procedural Guide for Externally Rereading an Examination – capacity of examiners challenged – allegations of personal and generalized bias – no jurisdiction to assess correctness of exam marks or competence of examiners unless reasonable apprehension of bias – no evidence of personal bias – examiners did not know Student’s identity or status – no evidence of generalized bias – collective mindset against acceptance of Student’s theoretical approach improbable – minority opinion that discrepancy between prior marks and failure on exam, and potential lack of specific math expertise of faculty cause for concern – minority opinion that letter from Faculty to Chair of Graduate Department Student Appeals Committee attempted to intimidate Student – appeal dismissed

Request to have a comprehensive examination remarked by an external examiner in accordance with the Faculty’s Procedural Guide for Externally Rereading an Examination. The Student challenged the capacity of the examiners to properly evaluate her approach to the questions, asserted that her answers had not been read fully and carefully, claimed that the examiners displayed an incomplete and distorted knowledge of the literature, and had distorted what she said in her answers. She also asserted that there was a generalized bias against her “scientific” approach, and a personal bias against her on the part of one or more examiners, both of which were operating against her and which contributed to the result on the exam. On the issues of the substantive correctness of the assessments of the exam, the Committee found that it was not the job of the Committee to assess the correctness of exam marks or the competence of the University’s examiners. The Committee agreed with the reasons of the Graduate Academic Appeals Board that “[u]nless there is something, such as a reasonable apprehension of bias, to cause a failure of confidence in what has been done, the assessment process must come to an end.” On the issue of personal bias, the Committee found no evidence to suggest that the faculty who marked the Student’s exam knew her identity, and found no evidence to substantiate an allegation of bias based on the Student’s status. On the issue of general bias, the Committee found it improbable that the faculty possessed a collective mindset against the acceptance of the Student’s theoretical approach, and no evidence was presented to support the claim. A minority of the Committee stated that it was concerned with the discrepancy between the Student’s prior marks on her coursework and her failure on the comprehensive exam, and with the potential lack of specific math expertise of the faculty who marked the Student’s exam. The minority observed that a letter from the Faculty to the Chair of the Graduate Department’s Student Appeals Committee appeared to be an attempt to intimidate the Student. Appeal dismissed.