Saturday, 22 September 2012

Exams - What are they good for?

I will be honest.  I hate exams.  I hated them when I was a student.  I hated them when I was a teacher.

There has been lots of discussion recently about what sort of exams we should have in the UK for children at 16. But there has been little talk about what are exams for? What is their purpose?

Most people would say they are there to test the student, to see if they know anything about the subject, even to see if they understand anything about the subject.

Others would say that exams can be used to provide a measure of the quality of the teaching.

Others may say they are there to measure the achievements of the school.

Maybe it is all three.

I do not think that exams are any good at finding out if a student can manage in the real world of work.

Exams are a one-off test.  They depend on the ability to remember stuff.

Do modern exams assess our ability to collect, assess and analyse information?

Are they important to employers? What do exams results tell employers about how someone will work and improve? I don't think that exams are much use for this but employers always ask for them and I guess, use them to short list candidates.

So I suppose we have to add to our list that exams are used by employers to assess candidates for jobs.

People say that continuous assessment is not a good way to measure the performance of students. They say that students get help from others students and their parents.  But isn't that what happens in the workplace. You use other people skills where appropriate, you bounce ideas off colleagues, you read lots of books and nick their ideas.

When we are working we don't work alone.  Yet we test students by forcing them to work alone.  We assess a two year course in 3 hours.   We use test that does not relate to how we normally work.

So we need to think about the purpose of exams first and then design a test that fits the purpose.

No comments:

Post a Comment