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9IPT: Mini-Exam Assignment!

posted Aug 26, 2012, 2:58 PM by Eddie Woo
If you remember this post from a little while back, then you'll have been expecting this. If not, surprise! This week, in the lead-up to your exam on Friday, you'll be writing your own mini-exam. Let me tell you why this is such a good idea, and then break down the way it's going to work.

Maybe it seems strange to you that I think this is a great concept, but that's because I've discovered something most of you aren't aware of (and even if you are, you probably haven't experienced it to the extent that I have). What I'm referring to is the fact that the best way to learn something is to try and teach it to someone else. When you are trying to help someone else understand something, you really have to understand it well yourself. And it's often when you try to explain something to someone when you first realise that you don't know it as well as you thought you did. It seems to all make sense in your head, and then you open your mouth to speak... and aren't even sure where to start. Or, the words you say are met by glazed eyes and confused expressions. Or, everything seems to be going fine and then someone asks you a single question about something you've never thought of before... and you can't respond helpfully! 

This has been my experience with exams. It's an obvious fact that students don't like exams. But - and this may surprise you - teachers don't like them any more than you do. They're difficult to set (in the subjects I teach, anyway), they're laborious to mark, and once they are finished they herald one of the most tedious tasks in all of teaching: report-writing. So wait - if students don't like them, and teachers don't like them each either, why do we have them at all? And though there are some bad reasons for them, there are some good reasons for them too. For instance, a well-designed exam will really show you whether you know your stuff or not. And putting yourself through the process of actually writing such an exam will have much the same effect (it has for me as your teacher!)

So much for the justification. How's this going to work? Start here:

I'll explain the rest of the rules in class!