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.