1. measure the knowledge students have acquired,
2. determine how well students understood the lessons presented to them and
3. see how the students would apply these lessons.
I give exams not because I want my students to suffer. I don’t even bask in the complaints they make about how difficult the exam is (like some teachers do) and neither do I feel happy when I end up giving them low scores when I check their papers afterwards. In the first place, when students get low scores, the students aren’t the only ones to blame. Such situation should prompt a teacher to assess himself and the teaching methods he employed in presenting the lessons to the learners. Such should prompt him to examine the things he did and didn’t do which probably had contributed to his students’ failure to perform well in the exam.
We just had our first long exam this semester and though some of my students managed to pass, I couldn’t help but say that I’m still far from being elated.
I usually give ‘Modified True or False’ during exams. I do not only ask students to identify whether a statement is true or false; I also ask them to explain or justify their answer. I also give them a chance to explain some concepts and discuss how such things could affect their lives as students by asking them to write short essays. The way my students would answer such types of exam would help me see whether they clearly understood the things we discussed in class. Moreover, it would also give me the opportunity to predict whether they would care to apply such lessons in the future.
I am not expecting my students to understand or remember everything considering the fact that they aren’t perfect and the way they perceive my subject would to some extent affect their receptiveness to what I am teaching them; but to get them to react on something they have learned in class means a lot to me and I don’t care whether they would agree or differ with such lessons.
Giving a response, I think, is an indication that they are willing to learn; and learning, I believe, would only happen if my students have already managed to incorporate new concepts they acquired from class discussions to the ones they already have. And I don’t expect them to have such kind of response to everything. Quality is more significant than quantity I suppose. If they could find it in their hearts to accept one lesson and apply it, then that would be fine with me.
But it’s an entirely different story when students leave some or all items in the exam unanswered. Apart from the fact that they don’t give me something to check, such wouldn’t offer me any glimpse into the thoughts they may have on the lessons I discussed with them. I would have to give them a zero (0) on the parts of the exam they refused or failed to answer but I wouldn’t be able to say whether they really learned something or otherwise. ‘No answer’ doesn’t always mean ‘poor understanding’ or ‘zero knowledge.’ The thing is, a paper with no answers in it is worse than a paper full of wrong answers.
I give exams not because I want my students to suffer. I give exams so that I would know how I could help them. Exam results give us not only numbers that would eventually lead us to our students’ grades. Such help us ascertain our own shortcomings as facilitators of learning and make it possible for us to improve or modify our teaching strategies making them more suitable to our learners’ needs.
So if they wouldn’t be giving me anything during exams, then I would forever be in limbo, feeling iffy, not sure of what to do next. If I want to help my students, then that’s the kind of predicament I should never be in.
(This was first published in Tumblr)