Day 62: The futility of exams 

I’ve complained about this concept a couple of times now, but the recently concluded mid semester examinations have reaffirmed the futility of the concept of examinations in my mind. It’s not a complete hatred for any form of evaluation, as it is for this specific form of summative assessments.

Especially for the Masters programs, and for courses like the Bachelor of Education, I believe it is counter-productive to expect the students to prove their learning or understanding through a 2 or 3 hour, written paper. Are we really expecting teachers, tasked with training students for the rest of their lives, to prove their qualities as a teacher by writing a 3 page essay? The problem is compounded when you are testing them on subjects like Philosophical bases of education, Child psychology, or Methods of teaching. Would you rather have me demonstrate a class using the Jurisprudential method of teaching, or would you have me write an essay on how to use it effectively? And how can you guarantee that my rote and repeat syntax of using that method is actually going to be effective when I eventually implement it in class?

Or, is that no longer the true purpose of these assessments? Are we testing if the students understand what has been taught well enough to put it to use in real-life, or are we simply testing if what was taught has been remembered by the students?

As I argue about these flawed testing methods with my teachers and other educationists, a common complaint that I hear is the lack of time considering the number of students in class. How are we to objectively evaluate a class of 60 students, if not through a common set of questions for each? The answer is already in the system: Continuous Internal Assessments (CIA). The CIAs, at least in my Uni, are mis-interpreted to short, summative evaluations every other month. I hear some departments actually have class tests and quizzes as the CIA. In fact, our mid-semester exam is considered one of the three CIAs in a semester. Beats the entire purpose of calling it a CIA now, doesn’t it?

Instead of these half-assed approaches to CIAs, what we need is for class discussions, presentations and debates to be the core of the assessment. How well a student is able to rationalize a theory of philosophy to class, should tell the teacher how well they’ve understood the concept, and therefore how well they can create new knowledge out of it. Anybody can memorize the various steps to a curriculum development process three hours before the examination and repeat it in the paper. But how well a student can actually create a mock-curriculum based on a student-audience that you’ve provided to them will truly gauge how well they’ve internalized the steps to the process. From what I see around me, just being able to successfully participate in a flipped classroom is a great assessment of their learning.

The CIAs, at their core, address the issue about having not sufficient time to evaluate each student. As you provide different, small tasks to the students, and evaluate their performance in each of those small tasks, you will be able to build a complete picture of their learning over a period of time. By splitting your effort and evaluations into smaller, logical chunks, you are technically reducing the amount of energy spent on your front as well. And let’s not give up on a process, and pick a regressive technique like a written examination, because its convenient for the teacher. It’s after all child-centered education now, isn’t it?

Day 38: Broken hand 

I took the day off to visit the doc and mend my hand. Turns out I have tendor synovitis, inflamed ligaments around the wrist. And it had to be the right hand! Turns out a cut down on the laptop, mobile phone and driving is due. I’m in a splint for 10 days and suddenly the right hand seems indispensable.

I’m already lamenting the upcoming mid semester examinations and the 2 hours’ superb of wrist ache that I have to endure. While I disapprove of summative evaluations for even school – level grades, it seems the most pointless for professional degrees like the MA and the B. Ed. As prospective teachers and administrators, there has to be a better way of proving your learning practically, then replicating psychological theories and philosophical discourses on pages. In the last year, I’ve seen a few too many students of English literature who cannot even rid themselves of their regional accent, or speak a grammatically correct sentence, and the state of their students in the future worries me.

For such teachers, a more appropriate evaluation would be an actual class conducted, or a training facilitated, as opposed to a written exam. After all, in LSRW, writing is the last skill typical taught, isn’t it? (that’s an entirely different rant for another day)

“A broken hand, you say? Could it be the mad leash pulling that I do when we’re out for a walk? No, right?” Scotch 

The breeze, aah the breeze.