Category Archives: exams

Not a Rebellious Ideal of Reformation: Grades and Exams

UnknownRecently, I have come to the end of several units that I have been studying at university after many years out of the university environment.

The first thing that struck me was the different ways of learning. Online, face to face and others. Here, I am in three online units, each “teaching” me in different ways. This is not a post about which one is better or what lecturer was more effective in my learning. This sort of commentary is subjective to individual students and in my opinion, plays “ping pong” discussion with each person’s beliefs all the while challenging another’s beliefs with no expression to motivate others to change.

This post is about how and why we grade and examine students. It is not a rebellious ideal of reforming the education system because I am not trying to reshape everything that has and continues to occur in school rooms all over the world.

This post is purely and simply an awakening.

I was a teacher for many years and examined my older students and graded their “learning”. It was cultural. I could see the students who “worked hard” got a good grade and felt good about themselves. And those students who didn’t do too well, I felt compelled to “prop them up” with simplistic self esteem boosts.

I almost feel a shame and need to apologise to students. Was I a  good teacher? I’d like to think so. Was I empathic? I’d like to think so. Did I try to energise my class with exciting and reachable “learning experiences”?  I tried and thought I did.

But now, being the student and not the teacher, has given me the chance to realign my thinking. Sure, “grade” students and even “examine them” but let’s step back and think about how we do it and most importantly, why we do it. With all the means of learning and teaching available to us surely we can do better than a 20 question multiple choice test to be completed in a limited amount of time?

Always remembering that:

One students’ knowledge is not the same as any other’s knowledge…thank goodness!

One student’s experiences are not the same as any other’ students experiences…thank goodness!

One student’s dreams are not the same as another student’s dreams…thank goodness!

My eyes are widening and my views are now shaken. Do I believe there is a place for grades and exams…perhaps, still deliberating??

However, what I do strongly and passionately believe in now is that we have so, so many tools and resources to “assess learning” and even “reflect teaching practises” that we shouldn’t be restricting our “terms of judgment” to “pen to paper exams”. Surely we owe it to our students to be more creative, more just in our choice of examination, more compelled to help them achieve from their initial point of instruction.

I do know that my re-entering into a classroom after these studies will be different…so much different. That is, if I pass my exam that says I can re-enter!


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