With the coronavirus pandemic and quarantines in place all over the world, thousands of teachers have been forced to move to online teaching and tutoring. Now that the teaching part is practically over, we have arrived at the time of the exam period, when normally students have to prove they have learned enough through various tests and exams. But how is this exam period going to differ from the ones in the past? Do you think it will? I believe it definitely should!
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I’m sure you’re not going to be surprised when I say that teachers are well aware of all the different ways that the internet and social media can help you to pass those exams. And you might already have seen for yourself that many professors and tutors have devised various strategies to prevent students from cheating, like setting extra tight time limits or asking for photo or video proof. But the real question here is: Why are we all so focused on trying to prevent cheating on digitised but still traditional tests when we could instead revolutionise the way assessment and feedback is done?
Teachers’ Current Tactics
Traditional ways of testing seem to be so ingrained in our minds that when the opportunity to make significant change arises, we don’t even know what direction we could take. Since the internet is all around us now, it is actually quite pointless to still put the same amount of emphasis on factual knowledge as has been done so before. We can google anything now, and even if Google doesn’t know, some of our friends will. Actually, there’s no way anyone could stop us from messaging one another during an exam. So what is the solution then? Even tighter time limits? 30 minutes for 50 questions? I’ve seen that, to be honest.
Something Completely New
But that’s definitely not the way forward. This pandemic, and the quarantine that came with it, really managed to show us that we need to start thinking outside the box and rethink assessment from its core. Testing factual knowledge is a thing of the past because it doesn’t prove anything to the teacher. It cannot give a realistic picture of what somebody is capable of after having done an academic term of this or that subject.
We need assessment and feedback through which students can showcase their abilities, such as project work, simulations, role plays, debates, demonstrations and expos. All these are basically examples of the kind of assignments that require the use and synthesis of factual knowledge in combination with such crucial 21st century skills as critical and logical thinking, prioritisation, task delegation, teamwork and collaboration.
Obviously such tasks need more work, from both sides actually. They’re not so easy to do, so it’s also not so easy to correct and give feedback on them.
But what’s the point of writing a test at the end of the term with the help of Google or Wikipedia and getting just a number for it? And what about writing lengthy essays which nobody will ever read, let alone comment on? This traditional way of checking students’ progress is not beneficial at all! What’s needed instead is continuous assessed work that gets feedback, which can be incorporated in subsequent versions of that particular task. And the term can be finished with the final product!
A Practical Example
Let me give you an example of my idea. I teach teaching methodology and linguistics at university, but I’ll pick the latter subject because most people I know have deep dark fears in connection with linguistics. So, let’s say we covered phonology. First, I’ll ask my students to think of one question they could ask from each other, send it to me, and I’ll put it in a gamified quiz to revise (via Socrative Space Race or Quizlet Live). Then they’ll play a BINGO game with phonemes, which I create with http://www.myfreebingocards.com/. Finally, they find a song they love and notice the phonological rules we covered, and create a video in which they explain what they’ve found!
I know I am being a bit idealistic here, and not everybody is willing to put the same amount of work in all their subjects. However, we are all adults, and we should take responsibility for our own actions and for how much effort we wish to put in something. At least the opportunity is there to do something creative, to prove that the knowledge you acquired throughout the term can be actually used for something, and it can be incorporated into bigger projects, as it will most likely happen in real life as well.
This is not an easy task but what better time to start it than now, when everything we have taken for granted for so long has been turned upside down?
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