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James McGreen

Subjectivity, Success and Failure: More Questions than Answers!

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Edited by James McGreen, Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011, 15:45

So I got my first TMA back yesterday, and my initial reaction was one of being happy with the result. I agree with the result, and I can see some things to improve next time out, and I'm starting to develop a reasonable idea of how I'm going to approach the next one. On the surface, this is good. It did, however, get me thinking about success and failure as a whole.

I want to consider this for a few minutes. Let's say a student scores, say, 60% on a module. Every assignment and exam... 60%. They'd pass the module - congratulations. Looking closer though, what does that 60% mean? Is 60% success? In the context of the module, there's a strong to case to say yes. It's cut and dry: 60% is a pass.

Many opinions spring to mind: The student showed no signs of improvement throughout the course. The marks were solid and consistent. The work was never outstanding. It was never bad. What happens, though, if other students around our example all got 85%? They'd all pass, too, with a distinction. Would they be equally happy, or more happy than someone who passed on 60%?

Which brings me to the subjectivity thought. All of our examples would be actual people, with circumstances of their own, challenges of their own, goals and aims of their own. What would be the greater achievement, getting a distinction while completing the module as a 'hobby' in retirement, or scoring a pass while holding down a full-time job and looking after children?

If someone says that they 'did their best' or 'achieved their potential' does this feel like an excuse for not doing better, or that deep satisfaction of a job well done?

Moving away from the context of studying for a moment, if a company delivers 60% or 85% of it's annual profits target, this could be seen as failure. Suddenly even 85% is not good enough. Then again, 85% in a time of economic mayhem could potentially be seen in a positive way.

So what to aim for? Top marks with lots of room for disappointment? Consistency? Constant improvement? A distinction? A pass? To do better than others, or certain others?

Don't think I've really gotten anywhere with this... if it was an assignment it would be the first draft! For me at least, it's something of a 'feeling' thing. When I first saw my score I felt happy. Now it's more of a qualified happiness: I want to do better, so I'm going to try.

I feel I can do better. :D

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