Who can assess?

Grades have always been my metric to evaluate my progress during the years of education, and I think how to take an exam is a skill to acquire: managing time, strategies to answer questions based on the question type, handling stress, etc. Especially that as a personal experience, we had to plan at least a couple of years of our secondary education for what had been described to be the most consequential exam: University Entrance Exam or Concours. We went through learning many skills and strategies for taking an exam to the extent that even if you did not have the knowledge for a question, you could utilize your skills to find the most probable answer to a question. That is why I have found exams not to be fully representative of one’s knowledge on a topic.

I believe assignments measure learning progress much better than an exam since they involve a process more than an outcome. You are given a question (in the case of my major, typically a design question), follow some instructions, go through resources, ask around, get advice or suggestion, and interview. You conduct research. These assignments encompass case-based pedagogy and draw attention to applying what is taught and familiarize one with the various aspects of the subject. Since there is usually a deadline, the student needs to plan and handle the timing, enhancing the ability to manage.

Assessment needs (at least) basic knowledge of psychology, humanity, ethics, and sociology. Since it requires one to put herself in a judge’s position, it can not be achieved without understanding individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, and the ultimate goal of the learning. There should also be a baseline to compare the learning process with, which might differ among the students. A generous attitude in any assessment is essential as there might be aspects of learning that remain uncovered by any exam or assignment, like tacit knowledge.

For me, the eagerness to learn and good grades have always been linked to how the professor has influenced me. The more I liked the professor’s behavior and attitude as a human, the more I was willing to progress and work for that course. I know that learning should be a self-motivated process. Yet, I think the teacher as a human can significantly impact this process and augment it by his/her personality, as we do not just learn a topic; we are primarily influenced by behaviors, which shape a big part of our motivation and engagement.


3 replies to “Who can assess?

  1. Hello Sara,

    I agree that using exams to measure learning is not a great way to measure someone’s learning. I personally test terribly because there is so much pressure to do well; I know the material, but I have trouble with showing that on exams. I, like you, have learning better when I like the professor. I especially like it when they treat learning as a conversation rather than other methods. Thank you for sharing.



  2. Hi Sara! Thanks for sharing! I agree that test taking is a skill and that it may not be the best way of measuring someone knowledge in a topic. I do think though that “test taking skills” are valuable. As you said they measure stress management and critical thinking when you may not know the answer, both of which I think are valuable skills. Maybe the tests and assignments just need to be better weighted. For example, maybe the assignments could be worth 75% of the grade and some sort of test worth 25%. This would help to destress the exams without getting rid of them completely?


  3. Hi Sara,
    Reading your blog I started to ask myself, “if not exams, then what?” and reading some of the comments and other articles I see that there are a few directions to go. What I still struggle with understanding though is what more rigid fields should do in order to replace exams? I see that in my own classes that the problems that we work with have one solution since there’s a calculation and there’s really only one way to answer the question. It’s a little bit easier to change the course to be more open-ended when the content is open ended but if material is strict then it’s definitely more difficult. I do like the idea as Samantha mentioned, to weight different assignments so that there is less of an emphasis on assessments so this seems to at least be an attainable step in the right direction for all fields?


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