February 5th, 2013


Are you really testing what you think you are?

I see that there is a major cheating scandal at Harvard, centering on an open-book, take-home final exam given in a well-known pud course. Star athletes are caught up in it. Cheating is wrong, of course, but I think there is something wrong with the test itself.

You see, I once gave an open-book, take-home exam in a course I was teaching as part of a graduate practicum. For six weeks, I taught 8th Grade US History at Honey Creek Junior High School. I gave the kids the exam, but I told them they could work together. They could look everything up. They could ask their grandma for answers. I didn't care. But beware of pooling your ignorance, I said. Sure enough, I found quite a number of tests with identical answers. They were also identically wrong.

You can teach people facts, but you can't fix stupid.