Waiting six months to retake a practical? This OC believes that is outrageous.

“A pity, you did not pass your practical exam,” says the examiner with a frowning face.  I am shocked, followed by a sense of failure. It was already hot, but now the beads of sweat are starting to run down my face. The tears are welling up in my eyes and a burning sensation indicates they are on the verge of being shed. “You made a crucial mistake, so now I can no longer let you pass.” As a consolation, the examiner tells me I may retake the exam in six months. In six months?!

Disappointed by the system
Thoughts and images flash through my mind at high speed: I have an internship coming up, and this fail will not help me make a good impression. And when am I supposed to prepare for the resit? And with whom? My fellow students will not be eager to come back for this. I burst out in tears. I feel powerless and disappointed; in myself and in the system, which lets me wait for so long before I may retake the practical.

Errors due to nervousness
The examiner explains my errors. Due to my nervousness, I forgot to ask a colleague to check the medication. And I forgot to adequately explain the drug administration to the patient. Despite the fact everything went well during the practice sessions!  The examiner understands that nervousness may cause you to make stupid mistakes. Yet, I have not passed this exam.  I will try to resit this practical next week, or otherwise after the next term.  But, alas, the examiner complies with the regulations set by the OER regarding the resit of practical exams.

Case discussed by OC
But, there is a catch to this story. The examiner recognizes this problem of other students. Failing an exam is never fun, but retaking a practical exam after six months only adds unnecessary stress. Due to the fact the examiner is teacher representative in the Study Programme Committee, he brings this case forward for discussion. Our student representatives are immediately triggered; these feelings are familiar. More examples are brought to the table by the student-constituents. Then, we address the OER, after which we cannot but conclude that the situation was handled in complete compliance with the rules: there are at least two exams each year. Hence, a resit takes place after six months.

 Advice to the curriculum committee
The debate erupts.  We discuss the examination policy and the location of the practical exam thoroughly.  The question arises: ‘Do we test a skill or resistance to stress?’ The student representatives conclude that practical exams should be an exception to the rule when it comes to OER’s regulation on resitting. The teacher representatives partially agree. We take action: we write an advice with the request to enable a resit opportunity within two up to nine weeks. This advice will be delivered to the curriculum committee (Dutch acronym: LPC). The LPC discusses this advice with the examination committee. Additionally, they write a note about examination via the ‘fear of failure-method’. This note will also be delivered to the LPC and the examination committee.

Subjective sense of discontent supported by objective numbers
Subsequently, an initiative to assemble a think tank was made, comprised of teachers and students that brainstorm about the causes and potential solutions to this problem. In reality, the request is to support this subjective sense of discontent with statistical results of research. The request to conduct research is done via the Quality committee. The research question was assessed and subsequently rejected by the chair of the Quality committee.  Firstly, the Quality committee receives many requests for research. They need to carefully consider these.  For our request, they advised us to try a different route via the SLB first. Therefore, we agreed to deploy the SLB at an earlier stage in the process of guiding the students that fail practical exams due to nervousness. A stressed student that fails due to this, will immediately enter the ‘safety net’ of the SLB. Resits after six months will still continue to exist.

A large pool of constituents is crucial
Our OC clarifies that if you aim to exercise influence, in some cases it is better to not approach the person with final responsibility directly.  Instead, it is much more effective to first reach out to others, like the examination- or curriculum committee. A permanent representative of the OC is present at the meetings of the curriculum committee. We believe it is important to engage in a dialogue at an early stage, instead of waiting until the end of the process. The curriculum committee is our first point of contact, not the management. Influence increases once you clearly speak on behalf of a pool of constituents. We can show that we truly speak on behalf of our constituents by constantly being present at theme-based meetings within and outside of Fontys. One of our student representatives is also a member of the IMR. Such an overlap works well: we discuss our standpoints with each other and are often able to support each other.

Not a complaints committee
We do not look at teacher evaluations; we do look at the annual reports of the Quality committee. These are large evaluations of education. These reports also include the improvement actions (Dutch acronym: PDCA). The OC discusses these reports but stays clear from teacher evaluations. This happens at the authority of team leaders (team leaders attend the classes in order to ask students about the work of their teachers). And students can also file a complaint about a teacher in the complaints committee. We believe complaints belong there. The OC does not desire to become a complaints committee. We want to cooperate, help to improve and participate early in the thinking process about the development of new education.

‘We do not desire to become a complaints committee, but instead want to cooperate, help to improve and participate early in the thinking process about the development of new education.’