On Study Skills and Examination

Another useful video by Dr Stephen Chew on study skills and examination.

Examinations could be highly effectively in mass assessing students of Higher Education in an objective way.  Most of us (as educators) have gone through the examination processes in Universities and Colleges.  Indeed examinations could be critical in determining the grades of students in a College or University degree, and such practice might not change in the foreseeable future.

Examinations are still useful for undergraduate and graduate studies up to PhDs, or even professional association admission or accreditation.  So it is important to learn those examination skills, in order to achieve good results and meet the goals.

Examinations are, however summative assessment tool and there are little that the learners could do to change the results of the examination, unless there are feedback to the learners on where they are fallen short of, in terms of their “mistakes” or “wrong answers” so they could correct.  

Whilst examinations are still important tool in assessing students in Higher Education, there is now a trend towards using various combination of formative and summative assessments – authentic or real life assessment tasks, problem based assignments, workplace projects, and workplace based assessment as a more holistic educational tool in the assessment process, apart from the formal examinations.

In my post here, I share the following:

If assessment is so important in formal education, why do people still prefer to adopt the instrumental teaching based principally on mass lecture, tests and examination rather than assessment as an effective pedagogy?  Take a test or examination, and if you could pass it, you are qualified for a pass of the unit.  Isn’t it simple?

Some of us might have watched this video.

So, a lot of students would ask a basic question: Are the lecture materials delivered by the teacher during the lesson to be tested in the tests and  examinations? If not, could we focus just on what is to be tested or examined, and leave the rest to be “learnt” outside the classroom?  This is exactly the type of questions most students are asking in each semester, in a traditional lecture type of education and learning. Is that what the educators are most concerned too?  Teaching the content of examination or test to the students, so students could achieve high marks in the assessments. So, why not teaching to the test?

A test and or examination is a typical assessment tool used in education for decades. That’s where students could demonstrate their competency, and that is how assessment is conducted in most schools.  And if students are learning in online distance education, then they would be expected to submit the standard assignments (say completing a 2,000 words essay or answering a series of questions as required in the problem or project set), attend the examination, and if they pass in both assessment, congratulations!

Doing assessment requires more than the mere completion of the written assignments.  An excellent example of assignments as shown here requires the preparation and collection of evidences, and through an exploration and research process in the assessment, the learners would be able to demonstrate the competency required.  Also learners could identify their own learning needs and gaps in the learning process, when working through the assignments.  With the feedback from peers and or facilitators, the learner could also identify what would need to do to improve his or her learning.  These will all involve sensemaking (giving meaning to experience) and metacognition (cognition about cognition or knowing about knowing).

eduMOOC & MOOC Critical Thinking Re-visited for Present and Future on-line Learning

Resources on Critical Thinking

I enjoyed reading this Critical Thinking.  A summary on the characteristics of Strong Critical Thinkers is especially helpful.

This Critical Thinking video summarizes the essence of critical thinking

Critical Thinking

Slides on Critical Thinking

Application of Critical Thinking

Zaid’s slides on Introduction to Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking in Distance Education

Ruth’s post on Self as Locus of Learning

How to develop critical thinking skills in online courses?

21st Century Skills – What we measure

This 21st Century Skills Education & Competitiveness– provides guidelines on:

What We Need to Do Now

The nation needs to do a much better job teaching and measuring advanced, 21st century skills that are the indispensible currency for participation, achievement and competitiveness in the global economy.

Beyond the assessment of reading, mathematics and science, the United States does not assess other essential skills that are in demand in the 21st century. All Americans, not just an elite few, need 21st century skills that will increase their marketability, employability and readiness for citizenship, such as:

Thinking critically and making judgments

Solving complex, multidisciplinary, open-ended problems

Creativity and entrepreneurial thinking

Communicating and collaborating

Making innovative use of knowledge, information and opportunities

Taking charge of financial, health and civic responsibilities

In Doug Noon What We Measure, Rotherham says,

There are also real technical and logistical challenges the movement must overcome. Outside of intensive writing assignments, measuring many of these skills in a large scale or standardized way is difficult. As my colleague Elena Silva described in a recent analysis it is possible to design assessments that test both content and skills like critical thinking or problem solving. But unless these measurements are carefully designed, students can fake knowledge on many exercises intended to measure skills, again shortchanging content. In any case, most states are ill-equipped to implement such assessments today and too many teachers are not prepared to use them or teach this way today.

In other words, we should not teach what we can not easily measure. To argue that we should not teach higher level thinking because our tests are inadequate and teachers lack preparation is advocacy for the status quo – a declining spiral of testable mediocrity and irrelevance.

Well, here’s some news: We already measure many sad truths kids are learning, We count high school dropouts, teen pregnancies, drug arrests, incarceration rates, mean family incomes, child welfare statistics, and a host of other social dissonance indicators. And all of them indicate there is a problem outside the schoolhouse. And there is NO evidence that a steady diet of testable basic skills, disconnected from any reality in the known universe outside the sterile confines of an education policy think tank, will have any impact on THOSE statistics.

However, can we assess what learners have learnt instead?  Nearly all the 21st century skills could be learnt through problem-based or project-based learning (with the use of blogs, wikis/nings or social network tools such as Youtube and Facebook) and life experience.  With the advent of open sourced technologies (Web 2.0 tools), mobile technology, internet based learning, and the support of  enthusiastic and trained educators, it is possible to supplement the formal education with informal learning, leading to advancement of skills amongst the learners.

Instead of having standardised tests, are there better alternative assessments that could be used?  How about the e-portfolios, wiki-based projects, independent blogs and edublogs, and videos/podcast as alternative means of technology mediated education/learning especially in the senior years of study?

Postscript: This paper by Jay Mathews provides further reading on the 21st century skills.

Great educators tell me that teaching and learning are more about relationships than content, more about asking questions every day of everyone in class than depending on students to soak it up on their own. In our poorest neighborhoods, we still have some of our weakest teachers, either too inexperienced to handle methods like modeling instruction or too cynical to consider 21st-century skills anything more than another doomed fad. There might be a way to turn them around, but if there isn’t, instead of engaged and inspired students, we will have just one more big waste of time.