The purpose of semester exams is to solidify the student body’s semester of learning. Yet with the late night cram sessions, loss of sleep during dead week, and copious amounts of stress, maybe this testing isn’t best for our school.
Ms. Podorsek, the Middle and High School Teaching and Learning Coordinator, addressed some of the issues behind semester exams from a learning perspective. “There is some questioning as to whether a cumulative summative exam actually helps learning… what real learning occurs when students cram a semester’s worth of information and then sit down for 2 hours with paper and pen and are asked to perform. Maybe a pen and paper is not the best the option for you as a learner, as well as the pressure of having to perform everything in a limited amount of time on a single day doesn’t always maximize learning or give us a snapshot of your learning.”
With education being an evolving field where ideas on how students learn best being challenged, the newest shift is moving away from exams. Students are mostly in favour of this new policy. When asked how she felt about exams in 9th grade,
Sydney ‘20 explained, “As a freshman it was scary… I wasn’t always sure what to expect, which made the experience pretty stressful.” She wasn’t alone in her anxiety.
As a senior, Liam, ‘18, must prepare for upcoming IB examinations in his last year of high school. In his perspective, “Having the semester exam does give students pressure which then forces them to take their learning seriously.”
The pressure of exams was recognized by teachers such as Ms. Podorsek, “Semester exam time is a super stressful time in ISKL, I mean it’s hard to turn a corner and not find someone crying. The stress levels go off the charts in December and I am not sure that that is healthy for anybody, I don’t think it’s healthy for students, I don’t think it’s healthy for the climate, and I don’t think it’s even healthy for teachers. I don’t think it’s good for learning.”
Ms. Podorsek also talked about how this shift is about putting back some of the loss of instructional time with an exam schedule. The last two weeks of the semester would be dedicated to new material instead of material already learned. Sydney believes this would be a much better use of time, “Extra learning, sports, and stuff would help keep your routine and you would still really enjoy your school time.”
Perhaps there is a way students can get the best of both worlds–experiencing exams to prepare for later testing while avoiding the stress of cramming and worrying about the impact of the tests on their final grades.
Mr. Ubl, ISKL Photography teacher and an ex-college professor, he suggested, “Why does it all have to be at the same time? … What is the point of kids taking two weeks off just to cram for the experience of an exam just to leave for break and forget everything.”
Mr. Ubl suggests exams could be taught as its own subject. This way, students can actually learn how to handle the pressures of being in testing conditions. Another offer by Mr. Ubl is that exams could be spread out and occur when teachers have felt they have succinctly taught the necessary material for that semester.
Whether you favour exams or not, a change in the school’s learning experience has arrived. The success of this change is to up in the air, we will find out in December.