gmonkey42: Professor Farnsworth from Futurama (farnsworth)
Here's an article (via Echidne of the Snakes about a teacher giving students the questions on assessment tests before the test:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-06-school-testing_N.htm

I was in an all-day meeting yesterday with four teachers about a program we're going to run at the lab this summer, where a group of K-3 teachers come for a week-long retreat to learn about marine science and work with these four leader teachers on how they can bring what they've learned back to their classrooms. I'm pretty excited about it. We're taking them to the Aquarium and out on a boat to count birds and whales the same way we do and to the tidepools to do an exercise about the scientific method.

ALL four teachers are frustrated by this teach-to-the-test mentality that's forced on them by the state. Especially in science, the Standards that have to be met (specific topics the curriculum has to cover because it's going to be on the test) are out of date; because of politics and bureaucracy it takes a long time to change them. Conventional K-12 science education already has problems: it fails to engage students or to dispel common misconceptions about science; standardized testing makes it much harder to fix that because the tests are geared towards a conventional curriculum.

Anyway, one teacher told me that in one country - I don't remember, I think it was in Southeast Asia - the teachers routinely give the kids the test questions ahead of time. They spend the year doing effective science education then about two weeks of drilling on the multiple choice test, so they can just get that over with then go back to real learning. It's cool. And it's exactly what this teacher did.

I realize that doing this totally defeats the purpose of evaluating schools with standardized testing and if we're going to do that, we might as well do away with the testing altogether. Yeah, that's the point. This teacher was doing civil disobedience and I approve.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]I think a big problem is going to be that everyone's biased based on how they themselves performed on the tests. I did pretty well on the SAT (1440) and really quite well on the GRE (710 math, 800 verbal, 5.5 analytical writing). I think standardized tests should be one of many criteria college admissions offices use. But would I have a different opinion if I hadn't done well on the tests? Some of the traits that helped my performance on the test - being self-motivated and hard-working, reading a lot, having a commitment to lifelong learning - also help me produce better work in school and a career.

I know studies have shown that standardized test scores are a poor predictor of performance. I can see how people who do well in real life have test-taking anxiety and their test score is an underestimate their true abilities. And I know lazy, ignorant people can pay thousands of dollars to take a test-prep course and improve their score from "abysmal" to "acceptable." There are many factors that determine someone's score on a test and a lot of those factors have nothing to do with how well they'll do in real life. But that doesn't mean the test is completely useless; there are some factors that test-taking and real-world-productivity have in common, as I said above. I think it's good to have standardized test scores available because it's the only measure that's consistent across the board - someone could have a really high GPA and glowing recommendations but not actually be very bright if they went to a high school that had low standards. We need a valid, fair way to compare students who went to different schools.


On the other hand, I think the tests required by No Child Left Behind are stupid. A nationwide high school exit exam is a good idea in principle but they're doing it wrong. One big problem with nationally imposed standards for curriculum (which is sort of on a tangent, I know, but the standards are in place because of the test) is that it takes a long time for something like that to be updated, there's a lot of bureaucracy to get through and a lot of different interests all competing with each other. The result is we're forced to cover a watered down, out-of-date version of everything; this is especially a problem in science education.
gmonkey42: Professor Farnsworth from Futurama (farnsworth)
See, wouldn't my title have been better than "The Shadow Scholar" for this article by an anonymous writer whom students pay to write their papers for them? I saw the link on Pharyngula. It's an interesting read. I was aware that this happened but not that these places actually write entire PhD theses for people. I notice the author doesn't even mention science. They could write review papers, that's easy enough, but I don't see how they could write a thesis based on the student's research. Right? Or maybe the student could throw the data at them and they'd actually do the statistics and interpretation of results for you? I like to think that wouldn't be possible. I hope my work can be distinguished from that of someone who has no expertise in my field and is just paid to write papers on whatever subject comes up, based on what they can find on Wikipedia and Google. I'm not surprised that subjects like Business and Sociology are susceptible to that, but surely not STEM subjects. The author did say they don't do assignments involving math. It bothers me that an instructor probably can't tell the difference between my paper that I spend weeks on and a paper someone's paid to write in two days. Obviously the author of this article is extremely intelligent and hard-working. That softens the blow a little.

Read more... )
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Judge Turpin)
As seen via StumbleUpon:

A bunch of lazy assholes who don't deserve to graduate! :D

"My average class size is 115" "18% of my teachers know my name"
CRY MORE
College students should not require a class with no more than 14 other students and a teacher who's going to hold their hand and make sure they get their homework done and care about their feelings. If you want the instructors to know your name then freaking show up for office hours.

"I Facebook through most of my classes" "I buy hundred dollar textbooks that I never open" "I will read 8 books this year"
I have zero sympathy. These things are all fully under the students' control.

I worked my ass off on my double major and I'm incensed that these entitlement-complex-having students think their poor performance means school needs to be made easier for them. That somehow the fact that they do a half-assed job or don't show up at all is the school's fault.

Yes, debt from student loans is a big problem but that was only mentioned very briefly. The message of this video seems to be that a college environment where you actually have to try hard and learn things doesn't work for lazy bastards, and we need to do a better job of catering to the lazy bastard demographic.

Naturally, they don't propose or even hint at any solutions. Just have a bunch of sullen-faced - and 100% white, I couldn't help noticing - college kids hold up self-pitying, pithy little handwritten signs. That'll solve everything!
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]SCIENCE.

I'd have them actually teach it properly, teach what the scientific method is actually about so people don't finish high school believing that it's all memorizing things out of textbooks.

January 2012

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