Final Exams – Do they support learning?

Exams have evolved over recent years.  It wasn’t long ago that every academic grade 12 subject was concluded with  BC government-issued exam.   Teachers were clear about the “pressure to teach to the exam”.  Students were stressed by having to study for an exam that was heavily content based.  Little was revealed about deep student learning or their ability to create meaning.

But some teachers continue the tradition of final exams because that’s what’s always been done.  Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of Schools in West Van, outlines this well in his blog entry (well worth cruising through his whole blog, by the way).

It’s time to assess assessment!  Final exams are one very narrow way to assess student learning.

Improving Standardized Test Scores….

…. doesn’t necessarily improve cognitive abilities.  A new MIT study has found that schools that are very good at improving test scores (labelled “crystallized abilities” in this study) don’t necessarily see the same improvements in abstract or creative thinking (labelled “fluid thinking”).

Improving test scores isn’t a bad thing.  Better Math and Reading abilities can do nothing but help our kids.

AND it’s time for us to focus on improving creativity, inductive reasoning, executive function… fluid thinking.

Creativity and Ken Robinson

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
~Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson is likely best known for a talk I heard at an education conference several years ago.  It has since been featured as a TED talk….  How Schools Kill Creativity.  Have a watch….

Since then, schools have been working hard to figure things out.  I am heartened by some of the stories I hear from schools around BC and all over the world.  The heart of it all?  Listen to the learner and guide their passion.  Take their lead.  They will create something special.

Flipped Classrooms

The concept of a flipped classroom is not new.  We’ve been talking about it for a few years now.  But there aren’t many teachers who have taken the leap – or should I say the flip….

Here’s the concept.  Traditionally kids go to school, the teacher stands in front of them and teaches, there may be some questions to answer while still in class, and then the kids go home to face their homework on their own.  It just doesn’t make sense.  The teacher is the best source of help there is – a subject matter expert.  So flippers do it the other way around.  The lesson is on a video and assigned for homework.  Class time is spent working individually on problem sets, projects and labs with the teacher helping individuals and small groups who need the help.  The added advantage is that parents can also watch the lesson so they can help their own child more confidently.

Graham Johnson, aka Math Johnson, has flipped his Math classes.  His blog – flipping math – is a great read.  It’s well worth scrolling back and following his journey.

School in the Cloud

Education is in a very exciting time of change.  And it’s about time.  The world works and thinks different than it did when I was wee.  School needs to prepare our youth for today’s world.

School in the Cloud is a “Self Organized Learning Environment” (SOLE) where students have control over what they learn and how they learn it.  The concept belongs to Sugata Mitra and is inspired by his experience of watching children in India interact with an internet hole-in-the-wall.  It centers around children’s innate curiosity.  Love it!

TED:  Build a School in the Cloud

The first official SOLE based School in the Cloud has been opened in the UK and it’s exciting to follow its progress.

TED blog:  First School in the Cloud Opens in the UK

I’ll be watching for more about this concept over the coming months.  It’s heading in the right direction.