No more tests

Educational practices have changed over the decades. Gone are the Latin classes, rote learning of times tables, grammar lessons, and pieces of chalk hurled with unerring aim at the heads of chattering students. These things have been replaced by creative writing, calculators, tablets, film studies, and behaviour bargaining agreements. Yet amid the ever-changing educational landscape one thing has remained constant: exams. We retain the idea of “tests” to measure how students are progressing in a given subject but as a researcher has shown even these stalwarts of education may be in need of reform.

The new report comes from an associate professor in sociology who noted that assessment is important, indeed it is too important for students to dread it. So he decided to try to create an ambience for assessment that promotes “learning and joy”…there’s a juxtaposition of concepts that would not have occurred to your Victorian era pedagogue!

To achieve this in his Introduction to Sociology course he has introduced “learning celebrations” to replace the old “exams”. The learning celebrations involve rooms festooned with balloons and streamers, the availability of treats, and music. In addition the content of what was addressed in the celebrations was different to that in “exams”. In the learning celebrations the assessment content included 30 or 40 multiple choice questions where the content was amusing and frequently included class members. As an example, in a learning celebration dealing with the issue of “formal sanction” a question might be framed around a student from the class who adopted a ferret as a pet and was therefore evicted from her residence hall.

The researcher has found that in the three semesters he has been conducting “learning celebrations” the students scored higher than students had done in previous semesters. The average mark from celebrations was 86.48 compared to 84.65 for traditional exams. Over the three semesters 90 per cent of students said that they enjoyed the learning celebrations.

It might require a little more effort to generate a “learning celebration” compared to a traditional exam, but the results appear promising. As a teacher you can’t afford to stop learning.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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