FOREWORD: I have been trying to volunteer and share my knowledge and experiences with both young and the elderly. Today, I received a request for a “favorite teacher” story. This was my contribution.
T’S THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION, STUPID
MULTIPLE CHOICE TESTS MAKE US DUMBER, NOT SMARTER
“Getting there is half the fun,” used to be the slogan of Cunard Lines, back in the pre-TSA and Homeland Security days when people actually ENJOYED traveling in style (on ocean liners).
The message? The experience is as important as the destination. Make it more important, if you ask this writer.
Could that apply to a classroom teaching? Absolutely. Here’s a case in point…
What’s more important – the result or the process?
Let’s assume you are taking a math test. Sadly, it is a multiple choice test. I am saying sadly because the teacher will never find out how much a student really KNOWS if a lucky guess can do the trick. “Even a blind hen finds a kernel once in a while,” goes an old saw.
When I was a freshman in college, the first exam I had ever taken was a math test. It was very complicated. We were allowed four hours to come up with the right result.
When it was all over, I compared notes with my compadres. Turns out all the good students came up with the same result. Which was DIFFERENT from mine.
“So I failed my first exam in college,” I rued.
I became quite despondent in the days which followed before our marks were posted. I had been a top student in my high school and was not used to failures. So I never even bothered studying for the oral part of the example. Because only the students who had first passed the written test would be eligible for it.
“Your answer was 100% wrong, but your solution was 100% accurate”
So when we all went to find out what our marks were, I dressed up shabbily, in torn jeans and an old smelly shirt. It was just a formality, I thought, before I am condemned to repeat the class.
You can imagine my utter shock when I saw my name among the students with highest marks.
When I picked up my exam papers, I realized why. On the first page. the professor had written 100% in red ink. He also scribbled… “Your answer was 100% wrong, but your solution was 100% accurate.”
Then the penny dropped. I was seated in the back row of a large room full of freshmen. I had made a mistake in copying the original test formula from the board. I had put a minus sign in front of an equation instead of a plus. But my teacher did not mind. He rated me on my the process and methodology I used, not just the final result.
By the way, there was another silver lining. This incident helped me realize that I needed glasses for distance viewing. Which I have been doing ever since. 🙂
Abolish All Multiple Choice Tests
I was very fortunate to have gone to school at a time when professors felt their job was teach their students to THINK, not just come up with correct results. If this had been a multiple choice test, would the teacher ever had a chance to find out how I think? Of course, not.
Which is why the first step toward improving the our educational system should be to ABOLISH ALL MULTIPLE CHOICE TESTS. Which is actually something I first suggested in my Aug 1997 Washington Times column, “Dumbing Down of America” (see the closing paragraphs).
Some of the teachers from across the country wrote to me afterward and said that they would do just that. Guess they were a tiny minority, based on the current state of our education.
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Wow, they work fast. Here’s that teacher story I submitted less than an hour ago already published: 🙂
PS: I have been trying to volunteer and share my knowledge and experiences with both young and the elderly. Today, I received a request for a “favorite teacher” story. This was my contribution.