For a while now, I have been thinking about exams, and why our performance in school to a large extent is based on our results from exams. The idea behind an exam is that you read, read, read until your brain is overloaded and then you walk to school with 1000 different thoughts in you head and you try to spit them out during the coming 2-4 hours. Most often, on a simple piece of paper. Paper and pen, 2010?
For the first time ever during my university studies we had an exam on the computers a few week ago. Hello? For the first time. It’s not like the computer is a new thing or so, it has been around for a while and one could believe that even old institutions as schools would have realized that, but apparently not.
I can, maybe, see the benefit of having exams during the bachelor education, where the point is to learn the basics from different theories and fields. But why, o why do we still use the same method of measuring performance on the Masters level?
Do they honestly think that we will solve problems based on what we have in our small brains at the moment? Do they honestly believe that we will come up with solutions on a piece of paper? I don’t think so, and therefore I don’t think our performance should be judged in that way.
Our brains cannot absorb all the knowledge that is out there – it is impossible. Below are two pictures from Robin Teigland illustrating this, if we cannot know everything, we need to know how we can access it .
What we need are tools on how to solve problems and how to find the relevant knowledge in the big information jungle out there. Yes, we do use these techniques when solving cases and when writing reports, and I love it. But the basic mindset is still there – knowledge is when you know something, not what you do with your knowledge or how to find new ideas. What happened to the over-used word creativity?
To be honest, I do not think that the people who are best at filling up their heads with information and then spit it out during an exam will be the ones that are solving problems in the best way at a future job. (And if that is a good characteristic to have, at our program all of us have high grades from the Bachelor level, and have apparently showed that we know how to perform well on exams.) I think that people who are able to collaborate with others, who know the tools of how to access good and reliable information in a short time and can pick out the most important things will have the biggest opportunities of doing a good job.
That’s why I’m very surprised that we, as Master students, are still supposed to work in a way that was invented a couple of hundred years ago, when knowledge was something only a small percentage of the population could access. Today that is not the case, we have all the information and knowledge we need around us, we just need to know how to navigate and how to use it as soon as we’ve found it.
Bye bye to exams!
Note: I ”borrowed” the pic from here.