December is upon us and, with it, the traditional end-of-term exams. Though assessment strategies differ in some subjects such as modern languages, for most, the exams are still fairly tried and true summative tests with two or three hours to show what has been learned through answering short questions, writing essays, bubbling in multiple choice sheets and calculating your way to victory. Teachers recognize that these types of assessments are still the norm of our post-secondary institutions and our graduates need to be prepared for the rigors of this type of experience.
December is really a dress rehearsal for the final exams in June. Students, particularly some new to the school, learn valuable study techniques and consolidate their understanding of the term’s work through in-class review. In some subjects, notably in English, there are many exemplars for them to review online through the departmental website and students are given exercises in grading essays according to the scoring rubrics provided. This kind of insight into the assessment process is excellent practice and one that is percolating through all departments as we examine our approach to grading.
Providing opportunities for feedback through formative assessment such as this allows students to understand criteria-based marking and discover how to deliver a superior answer. The same process can and is applied to project work and other forms of assessment. Perhaps what is slowly changing is the emphasis from rote memorization and regurgitation on exams to more in-depth critical thinking questions that allow students to problem solve, explain, interpret, analyze and synthesize. These are the skills that lie at the heart of the curriculum in all subjects and are the true measure of academic growth.
Director of Academics