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Unconventional teaching methods risk fostering apathy, while overuse of tech for assessment raises doubts. These concerns, reflecting broader debates on modern education, question the accuracy of open-ended examination techniques in gauging student knowledge.

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Key takeaways:

  • Unconventional teaching methods can foster student apathy rather than engagement.
  • The over-reliance on technological tools for assessment could lead to unexpected results.
  • Teachers’ disappointment reflects a broader discourse on modern educational methods.
  • Open-ended examination approaches might not fulfill their intended goal of assessing student knowledge accurately.

In the era of digital education, a professor’s attempt to offer the most permissive and accommodating examination environment on the popular e-learning platform, Canvas, has raised concerns about student apathy, assessment effectiveness, and the broader educational system. The professor, whom we will call Mr. Davidson, hoped to accommodate his students better, but instead, he wished they were motivated enough even to cheat.

What’s permissive assessment?

Permissive assessment, as the term suggests, is a more flexible and accommodating approach to educational evaluation. Instead of adhering to rigid testing methods, such as in-person, timed exams with no access to notes or resources, permissive assessments offer increased flexibility and leniency. These can take various forms, such as:

Open-book examsStudents can consult their textbooks, notes, or other resources while taking the exam.
Open-internet examsStudents are allowed to browse the internet to find answers to their exam questions.
Take-home examsStudents are given the questions to take home and are allowed to submit their answers after a certain period, typically a few days.
Untimed examsThe test isn’t time-restricted, giving students the freedom to spend as much time as they need.

Professor Davidson designed an open-book, open-note, open-internet, untimed exam on Canvas intending to give every student the best chance to succeed. He discussed key test contents thoroughly during class and provided an untimed test period spanning the entire weekend. Despite his best efforts, many students failed to perform satisfactorily.

However, these results raise more questions than they answer. “Either 30% of them didn’t pay attention to the resources they are allowed to use, or they’re just really, really bad at your subject,” commented one observer, implying that Davidson’s unique approach might not be the problem.

Professor’s disappointment stems from an arguably lenient approach to assessment, which some believe encourages student disinterest. According to another observer, “You’ve made a homework assignment, not an exam,” indicating that the unlimited resources and time available may have caused students to dismiss the exam’s gravity.

The most troubling part of this account is that a sizeable group of students didn’t use the resources despite knowing about them. A fellow professor shared, “Those who didn’t use every resource said they just didn’t care to spend that much time and were happy with the C.” This alarming level of apathy among students could indicate an unintended consequence of making examinations too comfortable.

Some believe that students’ inability to score high may not result from negligence but rather from their overburdened schedules. One person noted, ‘Some of my students… simply do not have the time to spend to answer everything correctly… due to a ton of other life responsibilities.’ If this perspective holds, it’s not the assessment methodology but the broader academic structure that needs reconsideration.

Professor Davidson’s strategy, though well-intended, may have inadvertently invited the very problem he hoped to solve. By making the exam so accommodating, he may have devalued its significance. “You are giving them near limitless time and resources… so they are not looking at it as one,” another observer shared.

Concluding Remarks

These insights shed light on an intriguing, albeit complex, challenge within our education system. It underscores the importance of balancing fostering an accommodating learning environment and maintaining rigorous academic standards. The transformation of an exam into a homework-like task may not necessarily lead to better learning outcomes.

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