Monday, September 21, 2009

Unintended consequences

It's time for the first exam and we're worried, "we" being the students and the instructor. Despite my belief that the teams are learning (they tell me so, as does their work), we wonder if the class will perform well on the multiple choice exam. Are we focused on the grades or on the learning?

I asked every student to write five multiple choice exam questions (for a practice exam) using Bloom's revised taxonomy, with a focus on application, analysis, evaluation, and creation questions. They found it hard to do. We had a lively discussion about the difference between the learning they say is happening in the course and the use of multiple choice exam grades to assess learning. The first exam is later this week and the unintended consequence is a temporary loss of focus on the learning.

And on a related note, I'm aghast to learn that a prep school library in New England is going "bookless." Lest I be accused of leanings in that direction, let me write for the record that I think all students should read. Books. Nothing replaces the feel of a well-loved book in my hand. I can't imagine curling up on a rainy day with an electronic device. Shakespeare and Dante should be read on paper...and not the paper in my printer. Though I don't require a textbook for this course, I bring four textbooks with me, make them available during class, and encourage the students to use them as resources. And they do.

And when we get through this first exam and back to the learning, we'll be talking about books. Specifically, what is the one book each of them would want to have available were they on a mission-critical strategic project. It's all about the learning and the reading...and I don't know how to accomplish one without the other.

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