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Standardized tests

Warren Gallin wgallin at gpu.srv.ualberta.ca
Tue Jul 11 19:29:58 EST 2000

SLF wrote:

> There is a huge problem in our current "teach to the test" mentality.  Add to
> it the attitude that students are consumers, rather than students, and you find
> they don't have an interest in intellectual accomplishment or learning, just
> in grades.  I hve PhD students come by asking me to regrade problem sets
> just on the chance they might get a better grade.   That they haven't earned it,
> or haven't mastered the material, they don't view as an impediment.

	I'm not a big fan of graduate-level courses for marks.  It seems to me
that at this level of education a student should have got past the need
for courses are part of the flaming hoop regimen.  I don't take courses
for credit if I need to learn something new.  I read, or I audit a
course or I talk to colleagues, or set up a small seminar set.  As far
as I can tell, this is what working academics do, and graduate students
are learning the skills of a working academic.  By the time someone is
in graduate school they should be learning to take care of their own
education, not relying on someone else to present them with a
pre-defined body of knowledge.  If they don't figure out how to do it,
they are not going to survive for long in the academic or non-academic
job markets.
	I point out to my students that the day they show me a job that
requires the capacity to color in little boxes or circle letters or fill
in blanks is the day that they will get multiple choice tests from me.
> What's scary is the number of  students who have the attitude
> that learning something not directly relevant to their benchwork is
> irrelevant.  i fear that in many cases we are turning out highly skilled
> hands but limited minds, who lack the creative breadth to be real scientists.
> perhaps this is the sorry triumph of the careerist over the intellectual.
> A broader question is whither education? Does paying fees entitle one to
> buy a degree?  does admission to a program  guarentee the degree
> (student as consumer) and should it ? What is the student's
> responsibility and what the faculty's?

In my neck of the woods the provincial government has become enamored of
"key performance indicators".  In order to maintain funding and qualify
for increases, the universities and colleges must score well on these
KPIs.  The indicators include student retention, student satisfaction,
high graduation rates and low cost.  One of my colleagues pointed out
that the best way to satisfy the key performance indicators would be to
hand out diplomas at registration, thus dispensing with four years of
expensive hard work that will flunk out some students.
	We still have KPIs, but they are generally considered a hindrance to
doing our jobs.  However, it does keep bean-counters employed and it
provides the politicians with an "objective" measure of our performance;
inaccurate, but objective.
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