Tag Archives: Exams

Lenz on Learning: “What grades are good for”

I bumped into an amusing post on an inactive blog. In five quick, tongue-in-cheek points, Evan Lenz explains what grading teaches you:

2. An abdication of responsibility

Grading encourages you to abdicate all responsibility for evaluating your own learning. That’s somebody else’s job. Other people know better about not only what you should be learning but how well you are learning it. This is their game, and it’s your job to play it. Why you would want to learn something, what you would apply it to, what meaning or importance it has for you, what enjoyment you get from it—these are completely irrelevant to your grade. So why even pay attention to these considerations? They are a waste of time. They’re not going to help you pass that next test.

Read the rest over at Lenz on Learning.

A Tirade Against Exams

I don't like exams

Summer break has just begun. I managed to get away without any exams this semester, for the first time. In the past weeks, like every end of semester, I find myself thinking what an awful, ridiculous system these exams really are, especially in university. I’d like to try and articulate why.

I can imagine a university where exams are hardly even relevant because people only study things they find interesting, and only so long as they are interested. Such places exist (take Tokyo Shure for example).

However, most officially-recognized undegrad programs are still based on instructors providing students with pre-packaged chunks of information, and then judging whether each student has properly digested the information. This post will be about exams in that context; my point of reference will the linguistics BA program at the University of Leipzig. As far as I know, it’s as good an example as any of a normal undergrad program in science.

Exams are bad experiments

So why are exams a bad idea when you want to check whether a bunch of science undergrads understood what you taught them? Well, one part of the problem should be obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of science: exams are not very good experiments. Continue reading A Tirade Against Exams