Learning != MemorizingJune 21st, 2005 by infomancy
And being intelligent and capable in the 21st century is most certainly not going to be defined by how much African geography you can memorize in four hours. So why, then, is this the basis of the new TV show, “The Scholar“?
I stumbled upon this gem of the bottom end of Bloomâ€™s Taxonomy while flipping through weather reports this evening after finishing up some cataloging homework, and was quite unimpressed. I am not sure if the producers realize the educational message they are sending, but I hope this is just their idea of merging a game show with reality television.
The show (or what I understand of it): By performing well in real-world tasks, college hopefuls win a spot on an admission showdown where they are competing for a $50,000 scholarship and a place in the finals. Sounds good so far, I like the real-world tasks where students are assessed on their problem solving, communication, relationship, and leadership skills. Those are all attributes that are important in life. The problem I have is that the admission showdown was run like a bad game show meets standardized test.
The three students in the show down were given a topic (African geography) and four hours to memorize as much as they could before going in for the â€œtest.â€ The three young women are all smart, we the viewers are told by their peers, because they â€œcan memorize a lot very quickly.â€ Okayâ€¦a pretty pointless skill, but a great way to prepare to break the ice at a party in college by sharing that the capitol of Kenya is Nairobi. How much of the geography they just crammed into their heads in four hours will they remember in a week? A month? A year?!? If I forget that Nairobi is the capitol of Kenya (I learned this many years ago from Heinleinâ€™s Friday), I can just look it up on Answers.com or some other reference tool. But that is because I learned how to use a tool, instead of memorizing an answer.
I would hazard a guess that no real learning took place in those four hours. How then, is this a representative assessment for how the students will do in college? I canâ€™t even begin to imagine what the â€œadmissions officersâ€ on the panel were writing as the students answered question after question with single word responses. â€œHesitated 3 secondsâ€¦â€ or maybe â€œshowed a great understanding of the long history and deep socio-economic issues behind Cairo being the capitol of Egypt.â€
The scary thing is, in a education system driven by high-stakes testing using multiple choice forms, this program is perhaps not so far off from a high school graduation exam. I just hope this isnâ€™t what college is turning into. I have very fond memories of reflecting, discussing, applying, and synthesizingâ€¦
A fascinating blog from an assistant director of admissions at MIT makes me think there may still be hope. I especially liked the comment from one respondant: “All of the academic tests seemed a bit weak. I’d prefer an Apollo 13-style test, where they get a table of junk and have to make a square peg fit into a round hole. ” Way to move things into the realm of infomancy!