Under Observation: Student Anxiety and the Phenomenology of Remote Testing Environments

In Aaron S. Zimmerman (ed.), Problematizing the Profession of Teaching from an Existential Perspective. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. pp. 73-90 (2022)
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As online learning becomes more prevalent, colleges and universities have increasingly turned to remote proctoring services that claim to detect and deter student cheating during exams. However, many students have begun to voice concerns about the discomfort and anxiety these services can cause. This chapter aims to illuminate the existential and phenomenological nuances present in student testimony by reevaluating the proctor's gaze as an objectifying and alienating force. Specifically, I argue that the anxiety students describe is a response to feeling seen. In most cases, remote proctoring involves the surveillance of student behavior by a stranger or artificial intelligence, and the empirical literature suggests that students are often falsely penalized for innocuous or unintentional "disruptions" during their exams. Thus, rather than be "caught up" in the exam process (and invisible to oneself), students are forced to attend to their bodily comportment and engage in a self-reflective awareness of their behavior as a body for-others. In the most extreme cases, the proctor's gaze is not only a distraction for students; it is also alienating such that students no longer feel free to appraise the character of their own actions but must instead see themselves through the eyes of the proctor.



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Tyler Loveless
George Washington University

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