Friday, July 21, 2006

tests and exercises

A friend commented that her kids will get zeros for their spelling tests the next day if she is not free in the evening to coach them. I feel something not proper here. What are tests for? If they were for the teacher to know the progress of their students, then when the results of the students include effort from their parents and others, the teacher will miss out those students in need of more coaching. I think students and parents of young kids should be explained clearly on how the education system works.

What are the differences between various tests, exercises and exams? Exams are basically for the purpose of qualifying someone's ability. Thus, one strive to score, by all sort of ways, including churning out good answers even without understanding it, and hiding any signs of 'blurness' about the subject.

On the other hand, exercises are for the purpose of evaluating the performance of the teaching and learning process. Thus, very different from exams, one should be very honest, reflecting whatever understanding he has gained through the lessons within the teaching system, specifying the source of knowledge if it were not from within the system. At the same time, the teachers are to figure out ways to improve on the teaching/learning process, instead of just wonder what's wrong with the student.

Tests are the confusing ones. These are conducted in a more controlled way than exercises such that a more unbias evaluation can be achieved. However, many tests have their scores affecting the final qualifying process, which introduce bias since student will hid their weakness and give answers they recognise as correct, but don't understand. A way to reconcile is not to view tests as evaluation tools but trainings and simulation practices to prepare students to perform well in exams.

Personally, I prefer more evaluation sessions, exercises and tests, and minimal qualifying sessions, exams and tests. Evaluation sessions aim to improve the whole teaching/learning system, benefiting the school, teachers and students. Qualifying sessions are for practical reasons such that other organisations can use to select their preferred students. However, the sad news is, most organisations find many of these qualifying sessions are not really suitable for them, and the more resourceful ones will conduct their own assessment. I think objectives of an educational institute should focus more on teaching rather than qualifying. It is also fairer for an independent qualifying institute, and more effective for the employer or higher institute to conduct qualifying sessions for the incoming cohort.
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