A New Term Begins

A New Term Begins

February’s arrival has reminded me how quickly time elapses when we are all busy and involved in our routines and activities. Perhaps it is providential that we have reserved the month of February to reflect upon the virtues of Hope and Vigilance. Doing so allows us to approach future studies and new co-curricular activities with a sense of promise and attentiveness. I am hopeful that this new session can serve as a way to reset and reexamine what we have learned from the first academic term. In doing so, we can attentively be mindful of the knowledge we have gained from those who have worked alongside us and who will continue to serve us well moving forward in 2020.  

With the reporting session upon us, it is crucial to recognize the consideration with which our community consistently supports the preparations required for a period of assessment as important as examinations. Whether students were experiencing exam writing for the first or for the sixth time, the attentiveness to tutorials and studies certainly manifested itself clearly over the last month. For many, the experience of test-taking supports continued efforts by students, and for others, this session allows them to become better aware of strengths and areas of growth.  

There is no surprise that critics of examinations often argue that exams promote a superficial understanding of topics and that they are inauthentic: that is, they fail to represent the kinds of things students will be asked to do “in the real world.” This is taking a narrow view of the benefits of exams because the exercise of preparing and writing an examination does offer invaluable benefits to the learner. This is true because appropriate exam assessments aim to provide a balanced and fair evaluation of each student, specifically because they employ a variety of thinking strategies and tasks. This gives students multiple opportunities in varying contexts to demonstrate what they know and can do. It also enables teachers to be confident in the accuracy of their judgements about each student. At the conclusion of an academic term, when examinations serve to fit the purpose of a discipline (as it relates to knowledge and skill acquisition), a task assessing instrument such as the exam helps to incorporate unique and various ways to evaluate the individual student. 

Because exams enable educators to accurately test students’ breadth of understanding of topics within each discipline, examinations offer multiple, different tasks to maximize a students’ opportunity to demonstrate what they know and what they understand as a result of their knowledge. Where the breadth of knowledge is clearly important, the end goal is expecting assessment tasks to target this breadth. Wanting our future physicians to know about the entire human body and expecting that our future teachers know a full repertoire of teaching and learning approaches, begins with an understanding of how exams can serve to scaffold this result.

Studying is not unlike exercising. Through exercise, muscles in use grow and exercising the mind strengthens the brain. As students search to verify or disprove during a science exam, calculate and analyze during a math or English exam, these processes of searching through one’s memory strengthen the memory pathway for future uses. In Psychology Today, Dr. Kornell speaks to the advantages of cumulative exams because these types of exams take advantage of The Spacing Effect: If one has already studied something, studying it again after a delay can produce a considerable amount of learning according to researchers. The skill of learning how to relearn what was previously taught, according to Kornell, is especially important for long-term learning. Evidence shows that the longer you want to remember something, the more you should space your learning. Because the cumulative exam makes one spend additional time studying material from earlier in the year, studying more positively helps, particularly in the long term. 

With the understanding that the formative years of our students serve as an instrumental time to nurture good study habits, develop learning skills and to cultivate strength and resilience, we look forward to continuing to support our students as they resume their regular classroom routines. T.S. Elliot said it best when he proposed that every moment is a fresh beginning. As we all embark on a new term, let us be reminded of how each moment can serve as an opportunity for growth. 

Many thanks to the parent community for your continued support of faculty, their efforts and for encouraging your children to set goals and work to their personal best.

Ms. Di Prospero