Photo Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rogerjones/103724190/
Two weeks ago I posted on Twitter that I was giving an “open-wiki” test to one of my classes. I was a little apprehensive at first since I’m teaching a very content heavy class (HSP 3M – Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology) but with the support of my PLN, I decided that it was worth a try. Well, after giving the test and having marked their responses, I am truly a convert to open book assessment. (In fact I am not a big test supporter and if I had the power, I would potentially go to a project-based model, but that’s a blog post for another time.)
In this class, I have struggled all semester to convince my students that critical thinking is much more important than the regurgitation of facts and after this test, I might have actually converted some of my non-believers. When I pitched the idea of an open-wiki test, (we don’t really use a text book so all our information is stored on my wiki) some were skeptical of the idea and some were excited because they thought the test would be ‘easier.’ I think what my students realized, however, was that even though all our information, theories and the internet were available to them, they still had to use their own brains to respond effectively.
The premise of my test, in essence, was to have the students take the information we discussed in class and apply to various situations. Here is an example of one of the questions from my test:
Carl Rogers was known for his “fully-functioning” personality theory. Review some of the information found on the wiki about the fully-functioning person and think about this theory. Pick someone from the media (either fiction or non-fiction) and explain how this person or character embodies Roger’s theory. You need at least 4 reasons to support your ideas.
One student’s answer:
“After reading over Rogers theories on the “fully functioning person” I felt that Larry Birkhead embodied his theory well. In case you don’t know who Larry Birkhead is, he is the father of Dannielynn, who is the daughter of the deceased Anna Nicole Smith. Birkhead had to jump right into the existential living as soon as he found out that he may be the birth father of Dannielynn. Birkhead went through many struggles in order to get Dannielynn, days upon days of court appearances and court battles just to find out who his birth daughter would go to. Throughout the whole ordeal he had to live in the here and now view, he had to get in touch with reality and realize that the whole situation had nothing to do about him it was all about his daughter, and her safety. Larry Birkhead definitely fit into the creativity theory of Carl Rogers as he had to become very creative after he became a father. This was a whole new role to him and he had to start a whole new lifestyle and provide for a new human being. Birkhead definitely had to and did get touch with actualization and he has basically saved Dannielynn’s life (who is now 3 years old). Lastly Larry Birkhead had an openness to experience, not completely by choice at first but soon enough he was open to the things that life had thrown his way and he was totally open to new experiences, especially if this meant spending the rest of his life caring for Dannielynn.”
Another student’s answer:
“The character I chose to portray Carl Rogers’ theory of the fully functioning person (or in this case, elephant) is Horton, from Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who”. He demonstrates his ability to contribute to the actualization of others by teaching the youth of the jungle about nature. (…and by doing so in a creative manner.) Horton is open to experience, for example, he notices a voice coming from a tiny speck of dust and embarks upon a whole new world that would otherwise be overlooked.
Horton focuses on the “here and now” because his priorities shift to what he can do to save Whoville, the village on the speck of dust. He demonstrates organismic trusting by following through with what he feels is right, even though the other animals in the jungle doubted that the dust particle was a village and called Horton insane. His theory was that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” and by sticking to it, he saved whoville.”
For this particular question, I asked them specifically to think about Roger’s theory and that theory is really quite deep. On a recall based test, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have received the depth of answers or creativity demonstrated in these two answers. The fact that one of my students could apply this concept to a fiction based character (and an elephant to boot!) really displays creativity and the application of their knowledge. In all honesty, I was blown away by most answers to this question! The students really took the time to think about the theory and then apply it to someone (or something) from the media and that synthesis of information and creativity really solidified that this is a very valid assessment tool!
The other aspect of this test that I found to be interesting, was that the students actually enjoyed this task. Many of them thanked me for letting them look at the information rather than having to memorize; which leads me to consider the real world yet again. When do we ever have to completely memorize anything anymore? I mean, outside of education, where is the straight memorization of facts useful? In most careers, if you don’t know something, you are allowed to go research the answer and then apply your knowledge. Isn’t that what we should be teaching our students? My good friend Zoe always says that if you can look the answer up, you’re asking the wrong question…
Thoughts? Opinions? Ideas? Experiences? Further questions? I’m definitely open to exploring this idea further.