Students hate assessment – whether they are tests, exams, coursework essays; you name it – and this I believe is a universal truth.
Unfortunately, it is one bitter pill every student must swallow. Recently though, I have found myself wondering if what students hate is the exams or assignments in themselves or if it simply is the set of conditions surrounding them. By conditions; I refer to the need to store up heavy chunks of information before tests and exams (what we refer to as ‘la cram, la pour’) or the general belief that a student’s grade is a good indicator of that students’ level of intelligence – and of course, no one wants to feel dumb due to repeatedly poor grades even after studying hard for these tests.
From primary school to my undergrad days, assessment for me has mostly consisted of
exams and these exams have been the climax and most important part of the entire study experience.
You will understand better what I mean if you come from an environment like mine where all our parents somehow finished first in their class and expect you to do the same – it definitely makes you wonder if they were the only students in the class because someone had to have come second place, right? In any case, the goal of all students back home is to do absolutely well otherwise you may very well receive some serious spanking when you get home with a less than excellent result.
I remember the one time I came 3rd in my class while I was in primary school and you would have thought I came last; the one question my father kept asking was if the person who came first had 4 heads, but then I digress.
All this pressure to do well in exams sure does take the fun out of learning and can even
completely hamper the learning experience turning it into one where students are simply interested in getting good grades without paying particular attention to the learning process itself. I, for one, do believe that too often students are focused on the methods of assessment rather than the learning that these assessment methods are ‘supposed’ to measure. Usable and understandable feedback – where it is present – is also another issue of concern to students. Unfortunately, these aspects of the learning process – the part that has to do with assessment and feedback – is often overlooked in terms of how effective it can be in influencing students’ learning.
This is why the TESTA project is of particular interest to me because assessment and
feedback is essentially vital to learning, and as one who is interested in furthering a career in academia, particularly university teaching, skills learned and knowledge gained from participating in this project will be beneficial in promoting students’ learning and hopefully make assessment and the entire learning process much more fun for students.
No! I am not reaching for the stars. Joe Bowen did say that “assessment is a conversation,
not a spreadsheet.” I also believe that engagement with students during the course of this project would help to provide even more valuable insight into various creative and much more efficient techniques of assessment and feedback that will aid the learning outcome of students – which at the end of the day is the essential goal of studying. I do also hope that at the end of this project, my skill set would have been enhanced in certain areas such as effective communication, teammanship, research proficiency and efficient organization – to name a few – and I would be better prepared for the world of work.
With a keyboard, a deadline and some cake