Senate sets pass/fail threshold for Ed

Aspiring teachers in the Faculty of Education will progress and graduate from Western’s two-year Bachelors of Education program through a new pass/fail system instead of numeric grades – the first in Ontario to do so.

University Senate approved the change in a recommendation intended to reflect the professional standards teachers must meet – and to shift students’ focus from what grade they receive to understanding how their learning can help them work with students, said Acting Dean Kathy Hibbert.

“They have to move out of that student mindset into a professional mindset. The numerical grading system is hindering that,” she said.

The change has been in the works for a year. The University of British Columbia and University of Prince Edward Island have also moved to a pass/fail system for teacher candidates.

Entrance scores into the program are already among the three highest in the country, with 340 students selected from among more than 1,700 applicants.

The updated program also aligned with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s professional assessment practices. The Ontario College of Teachers has approved the change.

About 60 master teacher mentors from area school boards will also be liaisons with teacher candidates, course instructors and the Teacher Education office to help improve learning and continuous professional development.

The recommendation to Senate was supported by the Faculty of Education’s academic research clusters, Executive Committee and Faculty Council.

The report to Senate said the program’s competitiveness, current literature in teacher education and extensive consultation all showed “the current grading system did not align with the practice of assessing teacher’s professional competence in the profession.”

The Senate report continues: “Our goal is to ensure that teacher candidates develop the requisite professional competencies which compels us to shift our focus to ongoing improvement, self-appraisal, risk-taking and learning to appraise others.”

Academic standards will remain high, with a ‘pass’ the equivalent of a 76 per cent average.

*   *   *

Show your work

Plagiarism continued to be the top academic offence during the past academic year, with penalties for all types of cheating offences ranging from expulsion to a reprimand. An annual report to Senate shows 112 instances of plagiarism discovered in 2018-19 – about half of the total cheating instances discovered through the year.

During the previous three years, plagiarism also ranked as the most common offence and also numbered about half the discovered instances.

At 223, last year’s total was slightly higher than any of the previous three years.

Among some of the other offences: students were found to have submitted false identification for an exam, collaborated on assignments without permission, falsified academic credentials and having cheat notes during an exam.

While some students received a reprimand, most suffered more significant consequences, the report shows:

Some were removed from their programs; many received a grade of zero on the assignment or on the course; and some became ineligible for faculty honours. One had to write an essay on plagiarism in addition to submitting the plagiarism-free essay they were to have written.

*   *   *

Human Rights major set at King’s

Senate endorsed a new Human Rights subject area, minor and major, at King’s University College.

Human Rights Studies is a new subject area not offered previously by the university and through a Social Science and Humanities approach. While six other Ontario universities also have Human Rights programs, they all take a specialist approach such as law or education. King’s is unique in taking a broader, interdisciplinary approach. It will also offer experiential learning.