The tide is turning on casual exam invigilators. Career folk invigilating every day versus apathetic people wishing they were elsewhere. But why are casual invigilators harming our exams?
Casual invigilators are ok? Career invigilation, powered by the pandemic-era growth in remote proctoring, has done wonders for raising the bar on detecting and preventing malpractice, and curbing proxy testers. Casual invigilators are too often unmotivated, lax, and would prefer to play games than invigilate our exams professionally.
Teachers don't mind invigilating, do they? There are uncomfortable truths about invigilation that some exam owners and Higher Ed institutions would rather we ignored.
Teachers and staff shouldn't be invigilating high stakes exams if they have any interest in the outcome. It's an awful look: invigilating your own exams. Just like marking your own homework.
Invigilating your own exams looks awful. As bad as marking your own homework.
What's so great about these career professional invigilators? Casual invigilation weakens engagement and professionalism. Only the most officious casual invigilators report suspicions. Casuals don't want the hassle. Educator invigilators, known to candidates, suffer halo and horns bias.
Professionals see daily malpractice tells. Their training is formally certificated. Career professional invigilators have no fear or favour - they're only interested in operational delivery, not a candidate's grades. They're also fully compliant with data protection and safeguarding laws. Research on professional invigilation is surprisingly sparse, but examples are here, here and here.
We can't afford professional invigilation! Last year, the UK's Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) unilaterally cut invigilator to candidate ratios from 1:30 to 1:40, due to 'hiring issues' and to save money. Cutting invigilator ratios, corrodes exam confidence, and lets malpractice fester. But exam owners seem to shrug their shoulders, and carry on. Are they 'pricing in' malpractice as a cost of doing business?
Failing to recruit professional invigilators erodes exam security and confidence. Are we just 'pricing in' malpractice as a cost of doing business?
The hardy perennial of invigilator shortages appears dysfunctional - everyone knows in advance when the exams are taking place! Organisations such as The Exams Office do good work to allieviate shortages. But discussion of exam delivery and invigilation costs is elusive and opaque. Do we really want to deploy the police for exam invigilation, as they do in Kenya and Papua New Guinea?
Discussion on the true costs of professionally invigilated exam delivery is rare.
It'll never work for school exams Some school leaders get hostile when discussing external invigilation services and ceding exam delivery control. Deploying neutral, external parties removes opportunities to influence exam proceedings and interference. The pandemic showed the importance of professional career invigilators. Remember - remote proctoring for school exams is already here. In 2023, remotely proctored UK school exams were taken by over 100 GCSE students. In that instance, the difference between professional career invigilation and casuals is stark - and probably the shape of invigilation to come.
And there shouldn't be a direct relationship between examiner and invigilator either.
What about universities? Some home truths about university invigilation were vividly described in a Times Higher Ed article. Including, "...rarely any consequences for bad behaviour...lecturers...hover around...to help (struggling) students...I'm working alongside myriad actors, artists, screenwriters, DJs, poets...police officers."
Skimping invigilation quality corrodes exam currency. An exam's currency is only as good as its weakest link. Skimping on invigilation quality breeds trouble. Use professional career invigilators to run high stakes exams. Let casual resting actors be theatre ushers, dog walkers, and pint pullers.
And it's definitely not OK to let effervesent TV presenter Davina McCall invigilate an exam.