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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

How I Feel About Assignments?

Assignment is a common form of assessment used in academics, just like examinations. In some cases, both assignment and examination are used together, while in other cases, only either one of examination or assignment is used. If you have the choice, do you prefer to be assessed through assignments or examinations? For me, I prefer assignments, but my feeling about assignments have changed from time to time in the past.

When I was in primary school, I never had any assignments. Examinations were the only form of assessment. Then, in lower secondary school, there were assignments for the History and Geography subjects. In Form 1, since that was my first time doing assignments, it was very daunting for me. I did not have any idea how to do the History assignment, so I had to ask my mother to do most of it for me. The Geography assignment was a bit easier because my teacher gave us samples of it, but I still had to do it under my mother's guidance. At that time, I hated assignments a lot. In Form 2, since I had the experience of doing the assignments in the previous year, I did not find them so difficult and I was able to do them without help from my mother. I also worked with my friends on some parts of the assignments. I no longer hated assignments, although I still did not enjoy doing them. In Form 3, I no longer felt that the assignments were difficult, due to the experience I had from the past 2 years. In fact, I began to enjoy doing the assignments. The reason was because at that time, my grandparents limited my usage of the Internet because they were concerned about my studies, but I could use the assignments as an excuse to go onto the Internet, since the assignments were done using computer.

In upper secondary school, there was no more assignment for History. Instead, there were assignments for ICT, Additional Mathematics and Moral Education. The ICT assignment was quite easy and I enjoyed doing it. However, it turned out that my teacher himself offered to do some parts of the assignment for every student. I preferred my own work, but unfortunately my teacher did not like my work and he insisted that I use the one provided by him. The Additional Mathematics assignment was also quite easy and I enjoyed doing it too. I eventually scored 8/10 in that assignment. The Moral Education assignment was not difficult, but I did not enjoy doing it because it involved writing essays which I disliked. Worst of all, unlike other assignments, the Moral Education assignment must be handwritten and cannot be done using computer.

After finishing my SPM examination, my parents took me to attend the Taylor's College open day in December 2012. There, the counsellor introduced Cambridge A Level and South Australian Matriculation (SAM) which were the pre-university programmes offered at Taylor's College. He explained to us that A Level is fully accessed by examinations while SAM is assessed by 30% examinations and 70% assignments. Thinking back at secondary school, even though I did enjoy doing some of the assignments, I was more accustomed to examinations compared to assignments as most of the subjects in secondary school were fully assessed by examination. So, I decided that A Level which is fully examination based is more suitable for me.

In January 2013, I started studying A Level at Taylor's College. There was no assignment at all for the A Level subjects. However, I had to study the MPW Moral Education and Malaysian Studies subjects which were made compulsory by the Ministry of Education. Both assignments and examinations were used in the assessment of the MPW subjects. Therefore, I still had assignments to do. The Moral Education assignment was a group assignment. At that time, I was quite antisocial in college and I was not close to any one in my assignment group. As a result, I refused to participate in that assignment and I thought I could pass by just scoring well in the examination. It turned out that I failed the MPW Moral Education because I had no mark for the assignment. After discussing with the lecturer, he gave me an alternative 20 page assignment with the title 'The Dumping of Babies in Malaysia'. I definitely did not enjoy that assignment, but I was able to do it reasonably well, so I managed to pass the Moral Education in the end. As for the MPW Malaysian Studies, there was also a group assignment. Unlike the Moral Education, the lecturer allowed us to choose our group members. I chose to be in the same group with my few close friends and I participated in the assignment. In this assignment, we had to do a drama about pickpockets and I acted as the victim. It was quite easy and interesting.

In September 2014, I started studying MBBS at NUMed. On my first day at NUMed, the lecturer explained to us about the assessment system. For the Stage 1 and 2, there are 3 forms of assessment which are Progress (written) examinations, OSCE (practical) examinations and assignments. In order pass a year, students need to pass all 3 forms of assessments; a good performance in one cannot compensate for a poor performance in another. At that time, I thought that examinations would be much easier than assignments because the examinations are multiple choice, while assignments require doing research and writing long essays. In addition, I previously studied A Level which is fully examination based. I also knew that university assignments would be very different and much more difficult than assignments in secondary school. Therefore, I wished that there would be only examinations but not assignments.

There were 3 assignments in Stage 1. The 1st assignment was distributed just 2 weeks after the start of the course. In this assignment, I had to write a newspaper report about Folic acid supplementation and spina bifida, and a reflection about my first 4 weeks at NUMed. I found this assignment very difficult, as I had never written a reflection before and to write the newspaper report I had to do research which I was not good at. Worst of all, its deadline was just 3 days after the Progress 1 examination. I had to do half of the assignment during my revision period before the examination, and I left the other half for the 3 days after the exam. I was able to finish and submit the assignment on time, but I had no idea whether or not I had done the assignment correctly. I eventually got borderline pass for that assignment.

The 2nd assignment was about critical appraisal and literature review. This assignment was more difficult than the 1st so I decided to get a sample of the assignment from one of my seniors and use it as a guide. With the guide, I had the idea on how it should be done. However, this assignment was extremely tedious, because I had to read several long journal articles in detail, and that made me feel very stressed. Worst of all, for my batch, a new instruction was introduced for the first time, where the journal articles should be reviewed in an integrated manner rather than 'one after another'. Reviewing them 'one after another' is definitely easier and that was what my senior did because there was no such instruction for his batch. Amid the stress, I took the risk and ignored that instruction. I also did not make any citation which was required because I hated doing that. In the end, I once again got borderline pass for the 2nd assignment, but my score improved slightly compared to the 1st assignment. I was not deducted any marks for not following that instruction, but I loss several marks for not making citations. The difficulty of the 1st and 2nd assignments made me hate assignments even more.

Then, the 3rd assignment was the Family Study. I was required to write a detailed report after visiting a pregnant mother 4 times with my study partner. This assignment was the longest and it contributed the most marks compared to the others, so it was given particular attention by the lecturers. However, unlike the 1st and 2nd assignments, I felt this assignment was easier and more interesting. I was able to complete it without much stress and difficulties, and I didn't even get any sample from my seniors. I also learnt how to use EndNote at that time which made citations much easier. I was very confident that I would pass it. At last, I scored 85% for the 3rd assignment. It was an excellent score and was a very huge improvement compared to my 2nd assignment, and I was very proud of it. Because of that, I no longer hated assignments that much.

After completing the 3rd assignment, I was relieved that there would be no more assignments for Stage 1. Since assignments were the most difficult for me, I thought that the remaining of Stage 1 should be easy. However, I soon realised that I was too naive to think that way. It turned out that my revision for the Progress 3 examination was very stressful as there were a lot to revise and I started the revision too late. At that time, I no longer felt that examinations are easier than assignments.

In September 2015, I began Stage 2 of MBBS at NUMed. Unlike Stage 1, there were only 2 assignments in Stage 2. The 1st assignment was the Patient Study. In this assignment, I had to visit a patient with a chronic illness 4 times with my study partners and then produce a report about the patient. It is quite similar to the Family Study in Stage 1. Before I started doing this assignment, I had expected that it would not be too difficult since I did not find the Family Study difficult previously. This assignment turned out to be a little more difficult than the Family Study because it required more knowledge. Still, I did not feel stressed doing it. In fact, I completed and submitted it one week before the deadline. I eventually scored 75% in this assignment. Even though not as good as the Family Study, it is still a very good score.

The 2nd assignment was the Student Selected Component 1 (SSC1). This assignment had 2 parts, Literature review and Oral presentation. For the 1st part, I had to choose any topic that I am interested in and do a literature review about the topic. It is similar to the 2nd assignment in Stage 1. I chose the topic 'Is mirror therapy an effective treatment option for phantom limb?'. I first heard about phantom limb through one of the lectures in my university and I was interested to explore further about it. Before I started doing this assignment, I had expected it would be quite difficult since the 2nd assignment in Stage 1 was quite difficult for me. However, it turned out that this assignment was not that difficult after all. Even though I had to read several journal articles, I did not feel too stressed this time, probably because I had the experience gained from Stage 1 and the topic which I selected myself is more interesting. For the 2nd part, I had to present to an audience about my topic using PowerPoint. I considered this to be the easiest among all assessments in university. Back in Stage 1, when I first knew about the existence of this oral presentation, I thought that it would be quite difficult for me, but my thoughts on that had since changed. I felt that I performed quite well during the oral presentation. I scored 75% for the SSC1 in the end, which is the same score as the Patient Study.

After completing the 2nd assignment, I started revising for the Progress 2 examination. Just like what I had expected earlier, the revision was extremely stressful because there were a lot to revise and the topics were quite difficult. Since then, I feel that examinations are actually much more difficult than assignments. Doing research and writing essays for the assignments may not be easy, but is definitely not as difficult as having to understand and remember a lot of information to revise for the examinations. This is the direct opposite to what I thought in the beginning of Stage 1.

However, there is no assignment in Stage 3 and the 1st semester of Stage 4. My next assignment will be the Student Selected Component 2 (SSC2) in the 2nd semester of Stage 4.