Just like the "Real World"

I’m sneaking in this quick blog post as I sit in class supervising some of my kids doing a test. Sorry, a quiz. I have to be careful of what I call it… if I call it a quiz they are ok about it, but if I call it a test, or heaven forbid an ‘exam’, they go into a little panic.

I use Quia as a tool for giving class quizzes, partly to make my job of marking a bit simpler, but mostly because the kids seem to prefer doing a test online rather than on paper. I’ve been using online methods for testing for quite a few years now, using various methods or creating them including Quia, Hot Potatoes, and even crafting them myself from raw html code hooked up to a sendmail.pl script back in the ‘old days’ . I’m of the overwhelming opinion that today’s students relate to the idea of answering their test questions in an online format.

Anyway, I let them do the quiz in an open-book mode. They are free to use the textbook, use Google, use whatever, to answer the questions. I figure that I can’t think of too many jobs in the “real world” that don’t allow people to go find the answers when they don’t have them. I still don’t reckon that school should be about just “remembering stuff”, but more about applying the knowledge they have to a particular situation. To my mind, the important thing is not whether they know the answer, but rather, could they find an answer if they had to.

If a mechanic turns up to the garage and needs to order a part for a car, he gets the chance to lo.ok it up, make phone calls, talk to the spare parts people, and so on… he isn’t expected to remember all the part numbers.

A doctor ought to have a good working knowledge of illnesses, and sure, that means remembering a lot of things – body parts, disease symptoms, drugs, etc. I guess that’s why they expect people who want to be doctors to be reasonably intelligent. But all those books on the shelf of most doctors’ surgeries are there for a reason. Sometimes a doctor will need to look something up, find an appropriate drug, or check a symptom against a reference. She isn’t expected to be the sole source of all knowledge.

I’m not sure why we in education have such a thing about our kids needing to “remember stuff”. Facts, dates, names, places … we put questions on our tests that really just test a kid’s ability to remember these things, rather than apply them in any meaningful way. As teachers, we need to be cleverer about the way we test whether our students have learned anything by asking better questions, questions that get them to think and not just remember, and if that means they need to look up a fact or two along the way then I don’t have a problem with that.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Just like the "Real World" by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?