The only time in your life you need to memorise an answer is at school. Once you leave school if you don’t know the answer you look it up, you Google it, you ask a colleague, a friend, an expert. This point has bothered me ever since I took the subject “Business Law” at uni and had to memorise and remember large amounts of legislation which I promptly forgot the day after the exam!!! 😛
As this scarred me for life I made the decision as a classroom teacher I would never expect my students to memorize statistics or large quantities of text. This often meant being queried about adding a page or two of stimulus material for my students and I then having to justify my position as this was often seen as being soft on the students.
This week I read an old blog post from Mindshift about Using the Internet in Exams. The article outlines what Denmark has learnt about having open book exams where students have access to the Internet.
I have long wondered about how we assess our students in terms of the reality of life after school. While projects and assignments allow students to demonstrate their research skills and allow them to “look up the answer”. Tests, Exams and Quizzes, unless open book really do not. I think as teachers we need to think about the exams that we give our students. Assessment that just ask students to regurgitate the facts and figures in their heads (or the ones that are NOT in their heads) does not demonstrate learning or understanding. Our assessment items which ask students to analyse and evaluate do at least ask them to use a few more brain cells however they do rely on the students memorising the theory first.
Perhaps if we are to head towards more open book exams which allow students to access their regular sources of infomation we need to rethink the exam. If we change the questions and the tasks we ask students to complete then it becomes an assessment about skills rather than memory.