Asking a Fish to climb a tree (or wrong assessment for the wrong student) ...

While evolution is a wonderful thing - your pet Goldfish will express dismay if you lob it at a Conifer and shout ... Climb!!! It will gasp, wriggle, flip around (quite a bit) before expiring at your feet.
We would not do this to a fish, why do we often do the metaphorical equivalent to our students?
Often I encounter situations in many educational domains where the assessment has as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot, yet with none of the charm. Level may be correct, but the style of assessment is out of kilter with the academic/vocational discipline.

For example - asking a plumber to write on welding joints is meaningless, we are more interested in their ability to do and do it to a high standard. Yet qualifications in the past have made these mistakes asking practitioners to write long epistles - when actually we give more a s**t about their ability to do.

Vice versa is equally valid - there are some domains where writing is preferable to action - especially when the context is abstract, theoretical or impossible to accomplish at the level of the qualification. Quantum Physics at A Level springs to mind.

Yet I have to overcome the demand that network engineers are often expected to write in the same academic way as most higher education establishments (in grand ole Harvard). Yet the industry is IEEE oriented, uses technical specifications and would prefer to refer to RFC's. As this is the way it has always been done - this is the way it should continue (go figure).

I am working on moving some of our assessments over time to a more 'subject friendly' assessment paradigm. It will take time, careful consideration and planning - that is the nature of my university. However, I do think academia needs to consider the notion that 100's of years of tradition does not always encourage good practice in new areas - it simply enforces tradition.

In fact, I think this applies to many qualifications.

*The subject matter from this article is inspired by the wit of Albert Einstein


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