Why I make you take essay exams?
Many students seem a bit shocked, surprised and somewhat overwhelmed when they find out that the exams in my class are essays. Some of the responses I get include, “What?! No multiple choice, true false, or fill in the blank. What follows is a look of shock and horror.
It’s at this point that I take a deep breath and recall Bloom’s Taxonomy. Simply put, Bloom’s Taxonomy divides educational objectives into three main components: Cognitive or Knowing, Affective or Feeling and Psychomotor as commonly referred to as doing, and then this is when I explain why we are using cognitive learning in this course.
The lowest level of cognitive learning is remembering key facts and figures. Sort of like when you were a child and memorized the alphabet or your multiplication tables.
How many times have you memorized something for a test, aced the test and then forgot everything afterwards? If you are like most of us…probably too many times. So you aced the test, maybe even the class but what did you learn by memorizing? Ultimately, nothing!
The next level of cognitive learning is comprehension. This is why I make my students read case studies, and discuss them. I want to see if student can truly understand what the case is about.
Now comes the good stuff…application. This is where I try to get students to apply the knowledge they have just acquired. I want my students to ask, why? I want students to wonder, how? I want my students to learn how to analyze; break up the information; identify cause and effect and then give support for how they arrived at that conclusion.
So back to the original question…why essay exams? This is the only way for me to effectively make students learn. Trust me. When students go out into the “real” world and get a job, I can assure that a boss will NEVER say…”Hey, we have a problem with Steve in your department. Should you:
A) Write him up
B) Transfer him to another department
C) Fire him
D) None of the above
E) A) and B)
The “real” world is not a multiple choice test. Leaders and managers have to analyze the situation and make decisions. Everyone should learn to support and justify the how and why of a decision. In other words, everyone must learn to analyze because in life one will have to do that at some point or another.
I don’t do it to torture my students. I don’t do it to punish my students. Quite the contrary!
We instructors do not stay up late nights thinking of ways to make students life more difficult. We get together to try to find ways to enrich the learning experience. So in the end, the message I’m driving home is that, essays are for the benefit of the students. Essays are to teach my students to analyze and learn so that they can truly get their ROI on the biggest investment there is, and that is, themselves.
“If you study to remember, you will forget, but, if you study to understand, you will remember”
By. Carolyn Schmidt .
Director of Business Program
CBT Technology Institute