computers, classroom, climbing, etc.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Worksheet > Exam 2

Well, our input to a working group at another school was pretty one-way. We went, we talked about living with computers in the classroom and then we came home. God only knows what they made of it all. Nice contrast between me and my boss, who is more of a gung-ho Web 2.0 educator than I am. I talked mostly about furniture, but in the context of all the other stuff that regularly comes up here.

Back to worksheets and exams. There is a tremendous culture of what I call ‘worksheet’-type questions here, particularly in English class. What was the name of the main character? What happened to him when he was eight? And so on.

Compare that to a typical exam question: “Rewrite the following paragraph to avoid its monotonous and awkward style.” Quite a typical exam question. There is also a part b here: “Explain how your version differs from the original using appropriate terminology.” Now, these are very typical exam questions. Here, they could be used in the year 12 English exam. I find these quite good questions. They demand concrete skills and they enable those pupils who have learned something to demonstrate those skills. They let the examiner differentiate between candidates quite easily without recourse to the dreaded multiple choice or to extremely subjective grading.

Trouble is, many of the pupils being prepared for this exam are being subjected to a strict regimen of short stories and worksheets. It’s no wonder that so many schools do so poorly on this exam – reading tons of short stories and doing worksheets is not a good preparation because the exam demands specific skills and knowledge. Worksheets demand knowledge of specific short stories which can’t be tested on the exam in the absence of a national reading list. This kind of teaching also chases pupils to SparkNotes and the like, and that’s really not building any skills.

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