Day 86 (of 185) kids today have (final exams) so easy!

Day 86 (of 185) kids today have (final exams) so easy!

Is the end-of-term getting easier? I know that I have heard many adults comment on how classes and (especially) assessments and evaluations have gotten “easier” over the years. 
And the use of tools (that I love) like eportfolio are often pointed to as ‘helping’ that trend…..because %s and letter grades worked so well in the past (should be using comic sans as a universal ‘sarcasm font’) – or at least they were universal (except for the many, many different definitions and understandings of what an “A” is (depending on jurisdictions it can be 86%….90%… 5% of the bell curve….)

And apparently having clearly set learning outcomes (Assessment For Learning) and rubrics known by learners so they can ‘see’ exemplars of what a range of student works can look like….so they know what to aim for…..and timely descriptive feedback can help them “get there”. Does this make things ‘easier’ or just more clear? Having performance standards helps everyone know what the goal may be!

And we are in a time of significant educational shift (in BC) where there is a move away from ‘one size fits all’ assessment/exams. Mostly. Admittedly there are early adopters and those that want to wait and see what others are doing. And many are just not certain. Even now we still have a range of approaches to tech – from embracing it to having cell phones banned because of how they may be used to impact and affect common assessment tools. 

And the students are aware of this. 

I overheard some discussion around this when I dropped my daughter at work. A group of students were comparing their final exams. I heard most discussion around the number of anticipated multiple choice questions on a test – range seemed to be predicting between 80 and 250 depending on the class…..and some interesting thoughts about ‘doing’ vs ‘memorizing’ for a final assessment: “it’s not about what we can do it’s about if we memorized the right stuff” and they were empathetic knowing that not everyone can read fast enough to read all the questions let alone answer them whether they knew the information or not. 

Now… the good old days, the %s on our grad transcript was our “ticket out”. We all learned the same stuff (in theory) and our final number would let us know if continuing our education was an option or not. But as my daughter is starting to prepare her own “applications to continue her learning” I’m noting more and more that the programs she is applying for isn’t as interested in that transcript – if you’re applying for an engineering design theory program, the assumption is that you’re already pretty good with numbers and thinking… they want to know/see “what have you done with that”. Suddenly the eportfolio becomes a tad more important, because they are not wanting to see how well she has done on her tests…..cause anybody can do well on a test….

And this is uncomfortable: 

It’s tricky to remember that a lot has changed from the time someone leaves school and their child enters it. Information is so much more accessible and it is becoming more and more important to see how learners use information rather than wondering if they can recall it. It’s why many teachers are looking at year end projects rather than a standardized test – and yes, even a class test is a standardized one as/when we hope that everyone can read and respond to questions in an identical method….(in a certain amount of time…?)

So….is winding up learning at the end of terms “easier” for students today? Well, I am aware of Socrates: The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers….. so I’m pretty sure adult views of learners haven’t changed much. I do see that my daughter is learning much more in terms of quantity than I did in the same courses, but I also know she plays ‘the game of school’ better too aware of what teacher wants out of a task.

I think that indeed many believe: youth may be wasted on the young and if we could all “go back” and do it all over again, we would probably all be better classroom learners – because we have memories of school that aren’t necessarily “complete” – aka ‘the good old days werent’. (I do recall playing mental math games to kill time in some classes – like, can I count to 1,000 in the time left….can I close my eyes and open them when the time is 1:15 and 23 seconds). 

Easier? Nah. 

Different? A little. 

Differentiated? Not enough….yet….but getting there…

About technolandy

Educator in BCs Sunny Shuswap Pushing 'technologization' in education: blending technology and curriculum seamlessly. Advocate for better understanding of Anxiety in Education (and use of self-regulation) Utilizing ePortfolios & Descriptive Feedback
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