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5:31pm on Tuesday, 30th April, 2019:



It's that time of the year when we have Project Demonstration and Oral assessments for students' final-year projects. They're a devil to timetable, because we ask students when they're available and they come up with times that are convenient for them but not for us. No, student, you are not available only 11am to 1pm on two days out of a possible nine: that's just when you want your PDO, which isn't the same as when you could show up if told to do so.

Multiple lecturers have to attend the PDOs of multiple students, too. You have to go to your own supervisees' PDOs, but you also have to go to those for the students of whom you are second assessor. I only have to go to six this year, but some of my colleagues have a dozen or more. Scheduling these is a real mess.

So, imagine this situation.

Lecturer A has three supervisees for whom lecturer B is second assessor. Lecturer B has three supervisees for whom lecturer A is second assessor. They want to get all the PDOs over and done with on the same day, but there isn't one. There is, however, a day when five of the students can be seen; the other student can be seen the day after. They organise this. Everyone else organises their PDOs too. There are close to three hundred students giving hour-long PDOs, so rescheduling would be really hard.

Now imagine what would happen if lecturer A discovered a week before the scheduled PDOs that actually lecturer B was not the second assessor for lecturer A's supervisees, but lecturer C was. Wouldn't that be alarming?

I am lecturer A.

Fortunately for me, lecturer C was clear (just!) for the times I had scheduled the PDOs for my students. If he hadn't been, I'd have been stuffed — I'm off to Portsmouth immediately after the final student's PDO and he's not free on any day after I return.

Bullet dodged, but this is what happens when you have non-reciprocal relationships between the roles of supervisor and second assessor. Someone (ahem!) is bound to misread the spreadsheet.

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Copyright © 2019 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).