That makes two of us

This afternoon we concluded our Biodiversity course – as usual – with a multiple choice examination. We had a nice group of students, with a core group of very motivated people, so I’m sure they had a breeze with the exam.

I’m not sure why, but despite being a master’s degree course, our course information and material – as well as the exams – are in German. It’s one of those typical cases of ‘it has always been this way’, with an aspect of ‘official regulations are hard to change’. Anyway, there are always some students that are not German, and I think they struggle a bit more. However, I think having a certain level of German language proficiency is a prerequisite for enrollment (not completely sure, though). Most students speak excellent German. Typically, we can’t make exceptions for exams based on language, simply because we’re legally bound by the course description, which states German is the language of the course.

This year, we had one student that was visiting for a short Erasmus program. Typically, if you’re on such a short program, you’re not going to (be able to) learn the language, and certainly not well enough for a course on biological complexity. They informed us about the issue timely, and I figured that if they could follow the German materials well enough to take the exam, I’d look into options for alternative examination. After applying for an exception with our Campus Office, we received the news that an oral examination in English would be allowed for Erasmus students.

This obviously meant that I had to lead the oral examination. Interesting. I had honestly never led or taken an oral examination in my life.

I was a bit nervous about it. I may have lost some shut-eye over this one. Haha.

I wasn’t sure what to expect today. Particularly because the student indicated that they really didn’t speak a word of German, I had low confidence. However, despite their self-proclaimed poor level of German, the student had a very good understanding of the course material, and it was clear that they had studied it well. We had a nice conversation about various topics, which perhaps was even a bit more comprehensive than the original exam. In the end I could congratulate them on passing the exam. I still have to calculate an official mark based on the answers – which I wrote down – but it was clearly a pass.

After the examination, the student indicated that they were quite nervous, because they had never done an oral examination before. ‘Well,’ I said, laughing. ‘That makes two of us.’

I think we both did well, and I’m glad that we could help a student out with a simple gesture. I’d rather teach the whole damn course in English anyway…

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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