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Posts Tagged ‘times

We live in testing times. Not just politically or environmentally, but also in terms of actual tests.

So here is a basic tip with multiple-choice questions like the one above: Use LETTERS as options instead of numbers.

We live in testing times. Literally.

Tests and exams are a fact of life in school, so teachers have devised strategies like drill-and-practice to help their students cope over the short term.

Any strategy that helps students actually do better in tests is good, right? So how about creating some metacognitive awareness?

Video source

The video above highlights how students might procrastinate and sabotage themselves during test preparation. The psychology behind this is behavioural and claimed self-handicapping.

Why do learners sleep late, not study, or distract themselves even though their teachers might have taught them test-taking strategies?

According to the video, students anticipate failure or poor performance, and create an excuse in advance. This way they can blame something else other than ability.

Test-taking is stressful enough. Other than reassuring students than academic tests are a narrow measure of worth, parents and teachers should nurture student self-awareness as a metacognitive strategy.

We live in testing times, not least because of people like Trump and the consequences of their thoughtlessness.

Last week, the local press bragged about how Singapore universities were moving towards electronic examinations.

This sounds oh-so-progressive until you read excerpts like:

  • “laptops to replace pen-and-paper exams because students are losing the ability to write by hand”
  • “online exams save paper”
  • “efficiency in distribution of exam papers, marking and collating results”

The reasons for changing the medium of exams were relatively superficial. Legibility of writing and saving paper are natural shifts in switching media. That is like saying switching from a bicycle to a plane lets you travel further and faster, and allows you to have a bird’s eye view. Of course you would!

There was no mention of how switching to electronic forms was not only more aligned with how we consume media today and how many students take their notes. The latter, in turn, is linked to the practice medium matching the task medium. If you do not understand the last point, consider a common response from teachers: Why should we use computers when students still have to take exams with papers and pens?

“Efficient” or “efficiency” was mentioned at least four times in the short article. Apparently, more effective ways of measuring learning were not on the radar.

The paper claimed that universities were “adopting more creative ways of assessment… audio or video segments, and interactive charts and graphics”. Again, that those are functions of richer media.

But can students also respond in equally creative and critical ways? Apparently not since “the students will have a ‘lock-down browser mode’ to prevent cheating, which cuts access to the Internet”.

Those that prepare the e-exams would rather set the same type of lower level Google-able, app-solvable questions than to change their methods and set unGoogle-able questions or tasks instead.

I said it in my tweet and I will say it again: This is a change in exam media, but not a shift in method or mindset.

Still on the topic of tests, I tweeted a WaPo article last night.

TLDR? Here is a comic I found in 2014 that summarises the take home message.

Tests. I can take tests.

The WaPo article did an excellent review of a national exam in the USA and tested the test with the help of three researchers. The researchers were experts in the content area of the test (history) and of assessment in general.

The researchers found that the tests only functioned to teach test-takers how to take tests. The questions did not necessarily test critical thinking skills like:

  • “explain points of view”
  • “weigh and judge different views of the past,” and
  • “develop sound generalizations and defend these generalizations with persuasive arguments”

Those tests were also going electronic or online. But again the change in medium was apparent; the change in method was not.

If we are going to design better forms of assessment and evaluation, we need to think outside the traditional test. This Twitter jokester gives us a clue on how to do this.

The test looks like a simple two-choice series of questions. However, the test-taker has the liberty of illustrating their answers. This provides insights into their mindsets, belief systems, and attitudes.

This makes such tests harder to quantify, but this is what changing the method entails. It is not just about increasing the efficiency of tests, it is also about being more effective in determining if, what, and how learning takes place.

Video source

It is easy to tweet the essence of the advice that Alan Alda shared about public speaking: Share just three ideas, said three different ways, and iterated three times each.

But that distilled wisdom becomes a meaningless tip if you do not adopt the same value system of wanting to create an authentic connection.

Alda took time and care to bracket his three tips with the need to make that human connection. Public speakers and teachers might take that advice as a golden reminder that delivering messages and running the curricular race come a distant second behind making that connection.

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.


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