|Examination methods influence learning||| Print ||
Such tests may have a high reliability, i.e. are easy to grade, but the validity might be low. For measuring that the aims and objectives of higher education have been fulfilled, assessments need to include tests of understanding (such as ability to interpret, exemplify, summarize, compare and explain), as well as ability to apply, analyse, evaluate and synthesize; assessment of skills, such as ability to communicate, should also be included. When students know that all this will be examined, they will extend their learning and gain useful and enduring knowledge and skills.
Students should be given the opportunity to learn from the examination, and realize what an answer should have covered. Furthermore, the students' answers are of value for the teacher to reveal what has been difficult for students to understand or to apply, and thus identify modifications needed in the teaching.
Examples of examination methods
Various forms of examination and assessment might be used. Some examples are:
Use a variety of assessment methods
So, what examination methods should we choose? The best answer probably is: Use a variety of assessment methods, if possible within each course, but at least within the education programme. Diversifying the assessment is beneficial. That gives students opportunities to display their full knowledge and skills in the area(s) studied; it extends their learning, and it prepares them for their professional careers. Testing students for detailed, factual knowledge alone will not achieve this. Remember that the assessment methods should be related to the aims and objectives of the course and of the education programme.
Because examination has such an impact on student learning, it is essential to do continuous assessment during a course. If examination is only at the end of the course, most students will postpone their studying until the end. This is not good. Knowledge obtained in a short period is usually not well retained; furthermore, it will not be applied during the course! Continuous assessment can be done through the types of examination discussed above, but also by including compulsory activities that require studying throughout the course; for example, assignments, cross-group discussions, case studies and problem-based learning activities, or study questions covering a wide range of the course contents. Such activities are vital to help students check on their understanding and to identify their knowledge gaps. The results from formal continuous assessment should count in the final exam, either fully or with a weight of 25-50%, for example. When parts of the course content are examined continuously, it is important to include some main issues from these parts also in the final examination so that students get the holistic view.
Whatever type of assessment is used, the teacher must give feedback to students on their progress in studies. Students learn from their mistakes and a student who fails in an examination should be given another chance within a reasonable time.
Using a detailed grading system has advantages and disadvantages
The systems for grading examination results vary. Some universities/colleges apply only pass or fail; some use also pass with distinction, whereas others do the grading on a more detailed scale. Having a detailed grading system has advantages, and disadvantages. Students get credits for good results, which might help them to get a job, and also increase their efforts in the studies. However, a detailed grading might make teachers use examination methods and questions that are easy to grade, i.e. written exams with questions on facts and details, which, as discussed earlier, can have a negative impact on student learning and the fulfilment of the objectives of higher education. Detailed grading might also increase competition between students, make them less willing to co-operate with one another, and possibly promote cheating.
Cheating can sometimes be a problem in written examinations and other written tasks. To avoid cheating totally is difficult, but the risk for it to happen can be reduced. The most important might be to show trust in students - and to make them feel that you do that! Study counselling is also important; students need to realize that they should learn for life, not for the exam, and if they cheat they will "fool" themselves. They should also be informed about penalties for cheating.
Common practices to minimize cheating are close watching of students during examinations and not letting them bring anything except allowed materials. In addition, students can be seated randomly in the room; one way to do this is to label the seats to be used in consecutive order, and also write these numbers in a list, but then in random order. When the students enter the room, they write their name on the list, starting from the top line, and go to the seat assigned through the list. This prevents students to choose where to sit, and next to whom, and the teacher decides exactly which seats are to be used. The teacher will know (from the consecutive numbers) which students' have been sitting next to each other, and can check for similarities in answers in case cheating is suspected. If examination occurs simultaneously for students in different courses the students can be mixed, so that those who write the same exam are not seated closely. In a multiple-choice test the order of the questions could be different for students sitting next to each other.
The risk for cheating is smaller when essay type questions are used in written examinations. It might happen, though, that a student claims to have been given too little credit for an answer. If the graded answers are given back to the students, it can be wise to keep a photocopy, at least of the answers from students who failed the examination; it can then be checked that nothing has been added afterwards. Other forms of cheating, such as copying text from other sources, are discussed in [Section 10.6] of this module.
Making good examinations in higher education is a challenging task, and teachers should take the opportunity to exchange ideas on examination. The system with external examiners that is used in many universities may contribute to such exchange, in addition to having an impact on the quality of examination.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 03 November 2011 13:44|