Therefore, it is easy to deduce that exams and assessments are certainly a very important foundational factor in the entire educational system. It represents a strong commitment to high academic standards and accountability for not being up to par. While this logic certainly makes sense, there is a huge role played here by financial and emotional stakes. For instance, this seemingly laudable aim of educational assessments becomes rather useless with teachers who teach in line with the tests they are planning to give, to simply raise their class averages. Similarly, when the ambitions of the competitive parents start to make education more about higher grades rather than greater learning, the goal of assessments surely begins to fall short of its true value. Another problematic instance is when the tests are too narrow a measure to actually gauge the child’s abilities, or they provide very little insight into the particular student’s mind and what he needs to improve on.
With such concerns, the seemingly flawless system of assessing students appears to have huge loopholes. This leads people to believe that exams might not be a fair way of testing the knowledge of students and the actual learning they have derived from what has been taught in class.
This is a complicated concern: creating the ideal link between learning and assessments. There is no right and wrong answer here and you can’t completely abandon one side to let the other prosper. What is needed is a well-thought through hybrid solution that incorporates both, the actual knowledge and a measure of learning. Here are a few modes of assessment that might prove to be optimal solutions for this age-old exam problem:
This is an interactive way of testing students that also saves the teacher’s time. An onscreen test is run on a computer and is a replacement for the traditional paper-based testing system. However, in terms of design and validation, this test is nearly the same as a traditional test. All that is needed is a particular software that allows teachers to create and upload tests, and enables the students to access these tests at the right time and date for a specified duration of time. Some software might even help you compile results and compare student performances with their past assessment results.
This is also a type of computerized testing that adapts to the learning capabilities of individual students. It helps teachers pinpoint the exact areas where a student is lacking and needs improvement. For instance, if a student gets a question wrong, the next question that appears will be automatically an easier problem. If the student gets it right however, the upcoming question would be one difficulty level higher. This allows for a greatly enhanced and individualized learning experience for students. And since the question bank from which each question is generated remains the same, results can be graded and standardized nationally. This technique is widespread in the US and Australia already and is becoming a popular alternative to traditional exam models.
The best teacher is practical experience – even if it is not in the real world. That is what a simulation helps educational institutions achieve. Unlike traditional tests, a simulation puts the student in a made-up real life scenario and allows instructors to assess how they respond. This practical assessment of skills uses web and tablet based technologies. This kind of an exam structure allows students to apply things they have learned in class to actual situations and learn via experience. It also makes it easier for the teachers to determine the amount of understanding students actually have in terms of the concepts they have taught in class. If they notice a trend of under-performance in a particular scenario, they can simply change their method of teaching that particular subject or concept.
Even though a lot of students dread this form of examination, it is perhaps one of the best ways to learn. It encourages students to come up with an interesting topic to work on, develop a whole set of information on it, create a visually appealing presentation on it and present their ideas to their fellow students – who also gain more in terms of learning and knowledge through such interactive presentations. In addition to that, they prepare more vigorously and cover the entire topic in much more detail than they normally would, because of the random questions during and/or after the presentation.
Open-book exams are the ideal solution for systems where rote learning is the dominant form of passing exams and where there is genuine concern regarding a lack of actual understanding generated through exams and tests. By giving open-book exams, teachers can cut out the time that students spend on rote learning for some quick marks. The idea is to give students conceptual exam questions that will encourage them to think about the problem at hand and come up with a solution that applies their knowledge and learning appropriately. Having the study materials right in front of them will force them to think creatively using the text they have studied in class.
The need for examinations and tests cannot be ignored entirely. However, with the education field becoming vaster every day and the student population growing exponentially, keeping examination techniques in check has become more important now than ever. Standardized exams are becoming less relevant to assessing the actual abilities of a student, which should ideally involve not only textbook materials, but also abilities such as communication, interpersonal skills, presentation skills and so on.
These few methods of testing are changing the education territory for the better by evolving the concept of exams and genuine learning.