Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Do People Actually Think?

I heard a piece on the BBC World Service last night about how getting students to sit exams puts them under stress and only tests their ability to memorise things. I may return to questioning whether testing a student's knowledge should be frowned upon at a later date. Anyway, the alternative offered was exclusively using continuous assessment performed alongside the teaching (computer tutorials, essays, etc).

To paraphrase, the following observation and conclusion was made based on a study in Britain. Students who are assessed solely using continuous assessment get markedly better results than children who are assessed solely using examinations. Therefore continuous assessment should be adopted in educational facilities in Britain.

Anybody who can't see a glaring flaw in the logic leading to this conclusion probably shouldn't be running nationally funded education studies.


  1. As a student who dropped a university course partially due to my inability to handle exams, I can see where they're coming from. It sounds as though the study started with a good idea and ended with poor execution.

    Is it fair to assume that practical tests (assignments, essays, hands-on stuff - course dependant) are less able to assess student's competency?
    What other options are there?

  2. I guess what I'm getting at is this. Consider an astrophysics course using a variety of assessment methods over a number of years.
    How far can you throw a ball - average score 30%
    Exams - average score 60%
    Continuous Assessment - average score 65%
    The Vibe of the Thing - average score 80%
    What is Your Name - average score 100%

    It is not possible from this information to actually tell which method is best at judging how well a student understands gravitational lensing, only the average score they get. Just because more students get high scores using a particular method doesn't make it a better method. It's like assuming you'll get higher volumes from an amp that goes to 11.

  3. That's all the affirmation I need. To the electoral office!


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