Examinations, Assessment tasks and all of the above

It’s that time of the semester again. Students hit the books doing their first piece of work all semester trying to learn 13 weeks worth of work in an hour before an exam. No? Perhaps thats just me.

Examinations. Are they really necessary?

I’ve just arrived home after completing an exam worth 40% of my final grade in a unit which I’m sure to fail because my lecturer and tutor consider me far too ‘opinionated’. Ironically, the unit is based on pedagogy (yes, that wanky term again) and the relevance of assessment.

Throughout the unit, we’ve focused on the importance of assessments and social constructivism (for those who have no idea what that is, I wrote a blog about it, check it out here). Basically there is this dude called Lev Vygotsky, his theory of teaching is that students learn on two levels, first on a social level whether students can discuss and share information therefore furthering their initial knowledge. The second level is an individual or independent stage whereby the student has the opportunity to recall information and learn it so that it is made relevant to them as well as memorable.

This is all sunshine and lollipops obviously, however the little bit hidden in the fine print is that social constructivism focuses on making (authentic) assessments engaging and relevant to real life experiences for future careers or life choices.

Practical experience v Written knowledge

Now you’ll notice I said “(authentic) assessments”. Authentic assessments are exactly what we’re been performing in this unit, writing lesson plans and programming – both completely 100% relevant to our future as a teacher/educator.

I fail to see why if we’re pushing forward into this idea of education as a means of social understanding and group work, that we are stuck in the past understaking (traditional) assessments. A traditional assessment for those wondering is a written or oral test where a student recalls and regurgitates information for a teacher who has a scaffold answer they are rewarding marks for.

Therefore, to continue this rant/blog, I again question, if we (education uni students) are encouraged to be making assessments of a higher level of thought (refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy) and making it engaging and relevant, why am I forced to sit in a lecture room with 150 other people – freezing with the air conditioning on and boiling with it off – to write down 13 weeks worth of information in the space of two hours.

What have I achieved by performing this task?

What experience have I learnt and will now go and share with my peers?

I also have to ask, if this ‘death of education, birth of student centred learning’ is in fact true, then what will happen to the HSC (Higher School Certificate [NSW]) or the major examinations at the end of grade schools?

Examinations. Even Lisa Simpson struggles with them.

Is having students sit numerous exams which is marked purely on content and not creativity or practicality really futuristic? Do I just like asking a lot of rhetorical questions because I don’t know the answer? Yes (irony!)

I plan on leaving this blog here. It is rather short I know (and rather passionate), but I would love to hear what your thoughts are on the relevance and/or importance of examinations testing how well a student can retell information under the pressure of an examination.

Either drop me a comment below or send me a tweet @petenowakowski.

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