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Unknown examination dates

Logic_on_rails
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11/18/2011 2:17:00 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
Put simply, this post is to discuss the idea of examinations being conducted on unknown dates, with students unaware as to the exam's timing. I have formed no opinion on the issue and would like to discuss it as such.

Essentially, the main idea is that studying is prevented. Whether this is a good thing is debatable. The main point for the abolition of studying is that if a test is meant to assess one's understanding of taught content then one must question whether a need to study constitutes prior, solid 'understanding' . Furthermore, will this knowledge remain in the student's mind for a while, or will it dissipate as a short term memory. If so, isn't the accuracy of the test undermined by studying resulting in false understanding being shown?

An example of this occurred in my Australian History class 2 days ago. A girl and my teacher were talking to each other; a revision sheet had been given out to the class. I give a summarised version below:

Teacher: Emi, you don't know anything on this sheet.
Emi: I know sir, but not to worry - I have 2 days to study for the exam.
Teacher: I think you'll need to...

So, the student shows a complete lack of understanding after 2 terms of learning, yet this will be meliorated by study.

This is just a point to consider. I want a good, clean and serious discussion.
"Tis not in mortals to command success
But we"ll do more, Sempronius, we"ll deserve it
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Posts: 18,324
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11/18/2011 7:27:51 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
I think announced tests are better than unannounced tests simply because they encourage students to study. Let's consider what will happen if tests are not announced. Students will put off their studying and procrastinate. They will get lower score in test (which by itself proves nothing of course). But the point is that announcing tests makes people study and prepare for them, therefore increasing learning. For students to learn the course material, it is important for them to frequently review it. In college for instance, if there are weekly quizzes, students will prepare for them. Same for the midterms and the finals. This frequent revision of the material ensures better understanding. If the quizzes are unannounced, the students will likely not study on the off-chance that the quiz won't take place on that particular day. To address your point about "understanding," I say that frequently revising the material taught in class is the best way to understand it.
Logic_on_rails
Posts: 2,445
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11/18/2011 2:48:29 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 11/18/2011 7:27:51 AM, F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
I think announced tests are better than unannounced tests simply because they encourage students to study. Let's consider what will happen if tests are not announced. Students will put off their studying and procrastinate. They will get lower score in test (which by itself proves nothing of course). But the point is that announcing tests makes people study and prepare for them, therefore increasing learning. For students to learn the course material, it is important for them to frequently review it. In college for instance, if there are weekly quizzes, students will prepare for them. Same for the midterms and the finals. This frequent revision of the material ensures better understanding. If the quizzes are unannounced, the students will likely not study on the off-chance that the quiz won't take place on that particular day. To address your point about "understanding," I say that frequently revising the material taught in class is the best way to understand it.

Again, I'm not disagreeing, but merely raising counterpoints (also, my experience is limited to some high school) .

Firstly, even if it were conceded that studying does help, we must agree that it limits the amount of new learning we can do. Over a 40 week school year at least 5 weeks are purely exam based (1 week of exams twice a year, allow about 1.5 weeks of preparation varying on the subject) typically, which means 5 weeks are unable to be used to develop new learning.

Secondly, and I don't think it's possible for us to really resolve this, but how many of the studying students gain long term understanding? I could argue it's a majority one way, you the other way.

Thirdly, and this is an objection not really designed for this thread, having unknown examination dates would likely reduce the increasing focus on testing. While testing is indeed the primary way of assessing understanding there are many flaws in testing, making it less than optimal. Furthermore, testing often marginalises understanding as students will 'data dump' (as some teachers say) what isn't on the test and focus on what is on the test. If they can't study which results in a data dump then they are forced to have a broader education - a good thing. As for any potential question on whether a focus on testing is actually a bad thing, that's a subject for another thread or debate (although I can discuss it here a little) .

I look forward to your feedback.
"Tis not in mortals to command success
But we"ll do more, Sempronius, we"ll deserve it
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
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11/18/2011 8:40:05 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
You are working on the assumption that learning does not take place during exam weeks when that is in fact the time when MOST learning takes place with people reviewing materials for the midterms and finals.

Let's say that the five exam weeks were eliminated and replaced with regular classes and new material is taught. How well can students really learn that new material and how much will they be encouraged to learn it when the competitive spirit and the drive of learning for exams is gone?

Long term understanding is gained by reviewing the material. There are better ways to do it than with exams but how can eliminating exams help?

I agree with your third point. The problem though is that it is idealistic as it assumes that students are motivated to study without there being exams. Examinations provide an incentive. That incentive encourages studying and ultimately benefits the student. You could have professional football games with no prizes or hope of fame and assume that the players will play just for the sake of playing, but without incentive, the quality may suffer. I digress, so I will stop there.
Greyparrot
Posts: 14,212
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11/18/2011 8:56:00 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
While it may have been true in the past that employers used your grades as an indicator to drive and ability, today's employers are well aware of the rampant grade inflation problem with many schools competing for federal dollars. For an employer to really put any weight on your grades is tantamount to an employer calling your father for a character reference.
Lickdafoot
Posts: 5,599
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11/18/2011 9:07:07 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
This is an interesting idea, Logic.

A lot of people who study for tests do the "cramming" method. Shoving as much info into the brain in a short term interval as possible. This is not conducive for the material to stick into the brain. It goes in one ear and out the other, and is more suited for short term memorization rather than fully understanding a topic. I'd be for getting rid of tests all together, to be honest. I'd be more interested in seeing focus on long- term projects, where the person has to put their project together piece by piece.

I'll use my PR class as an example. In high school, I was in the science & tech program. As one of our classes, we had to do a year-long science project. For one, it's much more fun which gets students engaged. You also learn a lot, because you progressively produce results & give short presentations/summaries/etc. as the project developed.
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Logic_on_rails
Posts: 2,445
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11/18/2011 9:38:03 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 11/18/2011 8:40:05 PM, F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
You are working on the assumption that learning does not take place during exam weeks when that is in fact the time when MOST learning takes place with people reviewing materials for the midterms and finals.

I am questioning whether this 'learning' is short term, and hence not really understanding.

Let's say that the five exam weeks were eliminated and replaced with regular classes and new material is taught. How well can students really learn that new material and how much will they be encouraged to learn it when the competitive spirit and the drive of learning for exams is gone?

The new learning is examinable content in the next exam cycle. Indeed, working under a 5 week a year assumption and 6 years of high school (prior to that exams aren't that key) we can find 30 (!) weeks of new content. That's 3/4 of a year's worth of new learning that can be had!

Long term understanding is gained by reviewing the material. There are better ways to do it than with exams but how can eliminating exams help?

I never said to eliminate exams. Indeed, unknown examination dates implies that dates exist, and hence exams still occur.

I agree with your third point. The problem though is that it is idealistic as it assumes that students are motivated to study without there being exams. Examinations provide an incentive. That incentive encourages studying and ultimately benefits the student. You could have professional football games with no prizes or hope of fame and assume that the players will play just for the sake of playing, but without incentive, the quality may suffer. I digress, so I will stop there.

I'm not assuming students will study for exams. Indeed, I'm arguing that studying circumvents the test purpose of assessing understanding. Again, I never said there wouldn't be exams. Finally, if students do decide to prepare for exams (on an unknown date) they'll have to better understand the material over a longer time frame (ie. if there's 3 weeks you must remember it for then you can't have it be short term or it'll be useless) .

Looking forward to the counters. This is an interesting exploration of the idea.
"Tis not in mortals to command success
But we"ll do more, Sempronius, we"ll deserve it
kogline
Posts: 134
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11/21/2011 4:51:31 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
lol greyparrot i think i know which one you were trying to post in.

lor- i think this is a good idea. maybe any content from a certain amount of days ago and prior is available to be tested. (ie i dont think the random tests should include anything from the past , idk lets say week. but anything before that is possible.

someone said that testing promotes data dumping. how bout this, if the material is important put it on the test ;)
i dont think that a "broader" education is good or better. focusing on the stuff that is relevant to your goals is better.
^ i mean if your goal is to know as much random stuff as possible then you shouldnt be in a college taking tests. thats not a useful skill, thats a hobby. look it up online in your spare time. maybe apply to be on jeopardy.

also i think unannouced tests encourage students to study more, but in a better way. having a working knowlege of the material at all times instead of just right before the test.

i dont think unannouced test dates would reduce focus on testing, i think it would improve the quality of assessment we get from tests. i dont think that focusing on testing is inherently bad, although not using other tools and not trying things like this topic to improve the information gained could be a problem. like you said its an efficient primary assessment.

"You are working on the assumption that learning does not take place during exam weeks when that is in fact the time when MOST learning takes place with people reviewing materials for the midterms and finals."

i think hes actually using this to support his idea(if he supports it) by making test week random you increae the learning of all weeks instead of test week which has been shown to promote better longterm understanding.

but lickdafoot, tests assess your understanding of a broad range of topics in the class where as a project is usually focused only on one aspect of the class. i think both should be used, and would be better than just one or the other.

im mostly focused on college since high school is just to see if you should go to college or pursue some other career path imo.
if state farm has perfected teleportation technology why do they still sell car insurance?