Wednesday, April 20, 2005

We had a wonderful day in Edinburgh today. Good enough to go out and have a picnic, if you remember to take your parka and hat with you. So my roommate and a friend of mine from Spain SMS'ed me and told me that they were going to pick me up to go to Holyrood Park for a picnic. This sounded like a good idea after having a two hour exam.

So we, with the appropriate arctic gear, went down and had a lovely picnic near the walls of Holyrood House and Holyrood Abbey. I took some pictures and put them on my Flickr account. We were harassed by ravens who really just wanted our food and a rat terrier who just wanted to meet people and play. It is amazing how much energy a little dog like that could have.

I promised a while back to discuss the UK university obsession with the EXAM. You will discover within the first few days of starting a class in a UK university that the students will start asking what is going to be on the exam and what is not. Unlike US universities, where the professor/instructor sets the parameters of what is going to be assessed and how, the UK university has decreed that half of someone's grade is determined by the final exam.

This causes some very strange behavior among the students. Such as, obsession of what is assessable material. What this causes is almost as bad as the Japanese school regimen of tests. It becomes all about what the student can memorize before the test then promptly forget afterwards. Couple this with a strange exam timetable, where exams take more than a month of time and you have a quixotic mix of stress and leisure. On top of all this, you have a two week Easter vacation between the end of the second semester and the beginning of exam time. At most US universities, you have all final exams in one or two weeks after the last semester or quarter (depending on the school or state).

Honestly, I disagree with the constant emphasis on the exam. An exam is a very poor indicator of learned material and future performance. What it reflects is what the student has memorized rather than what they have learned. This does not mean that a quiz or some small exam is not a good way of measuring student learning but it should be a short term measure rather than an overall encompassing assessment. What this means is that we should focus our attention on how to assess. I have yet to hear any good ideas about how we should assess student learning on a large level like a university or even at a lower but equally important level, the local school district.

posted by Chris  #10:17 PM | 0 comments |