Monday, October 4, 2010

Blue Book Blues

The test has been canceled - The Boston Globe:

The change, which was first reported in Harvard Magazine, is not a statement on the value of final exams one way or the other, Harris said. But the shrinking role of big, blockbuster tests at Harvard and colleges elsewhere is raising serious pedagogical questions about 21st century education: How best do students learn? And what’s the best way to assess that? Is the disappearance of high-stakes, high-pressure final exams a sign that universities are failing to challenge today’s students, or is it just a long overdue acknowledgment that such tests aren’t always the best indicator of actual knowledge?

My $.02: exams facilitated my being a terrible student who managed decent grades. In retrospect, I wish grades were determined more on participation and frequent testing throughout the semester, rather than having so much of the grade determined by mid-terms and finals. I learned pretty quickly that there were three days I *really* needed to be able to find my classroom: first day to get the syllabus, and the two exam days. Do the reading, find out what papers were due and when (this could be done with or without going to class provided you knew someone who could be counted on to attend), turn in your work, and ace the exams and you'd be fine. Fine being at least a B when all was said and done.

I suspect there were and are a bunch of students like I was, able to do well enough to get by without ever going to class, so never developing relationships with professors or engaging with other students and missing out on the best of the college experience. I'm happy to acknowledge my laziness and greater devotion to drinking were my own problem, not the university's problem to fix. Still, I think a change in the standard model could be a benefit to all students, not just the ones like I was.
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