Posts Tagged ‘Examinations’

Facepalm Friday

March 21, 2015

I’m a Chemistry teacher, and I’ve started preparing my students for their exams. I get the students to do past papers, so that they can understand what’s expected.

A particular question asked the students to design an experiment that checked how solubility changed with temperature. Will more solid dissolve if the temperature goes up? How do you know? Prove it.

Anyhow, this student I teach understood they needed to pick a temperature, and add this chemical to a fixed volume of water till no more could dissolve, repeat 2 more times, then change the temperature, and repeat for this new temperature.

The scary thing was that this 18 YEAR OLD student didn’t grasp that the mass goes up when something dissolves. He genuinely asked “How will we know how much we’ve added?” I asked him to describe what we would do at a certain temperature, “We’ll dissolve a solid into a liquid till it can’t go in any more.” Then I asked about what dissolving meant. “It means the solid goes into the liquid in really small bits.”

It was at this point I waited for a sign of “Oh ah we’ll have more stuff so we can look at the mass”, but no. He looked at me as if to say “Ok… next step?” When I asked him to think about what we could measure now we know what he’s just told me, he carried on looking at me, clearly thinking “I’ve got nothing, help me out here.” I then changed tacks and asked “Is there more stuff in the test tube before or after?” and he continued to look at me as if to say “Seriously, I’ve got nothing, you’re going to have to help me out some.”

So I’m not sure who my facepalm moment is for, my student (who doesn’t realise mass goes up when some you dissolve something in a liquid), or me, who managed to get a kid to 18 (with great grades) and not know that.


June 25, 2013

I’ve said earlier that the GaoKao is scary. It’s the exams that assess entry into Chinese universities, and the pressure on kids is huge. Areas round school go into police cordoned lock-down, ¬†with cellphone masts being cut, and parents sending “Do well or die” vibes over the school walls.

Anyhow, the kids got their results Monday. I’m assuming that if my province is anything like what I expect, 80,000 – 100,000 here kids took the exam this year, and the school in which my centre is based got 5 of the 10 best marks in the province. That has to be remarkable doesn’t it? I mean they didn’t have 1 kid in the top 0.01% of students provincially, but 5. And that’s not a particularly good year, by all accounts they get between 5 and 7 of the to 10 every year.

I wish I could say that my students are just as talented, but I can’t. Some are clever, but they aren’t that clever. Our redeeming feature isn’t the great number of A* grades we get. It’s that we get the kids to think. The GaoKao tests how much information the students can learn by rote. We teach them the usefulness and importance of thinking. GaoKao kids can’t give you a good “Why’s that important?” answer for toffee. And that’s why I’ll always argue our kids are better than the GaoKao nerd herd. This is the 21st Century. Since when has memorisation been the best way to prepare kids in today’s environment. I mean these bright GaoKao kids can recite the textbook, but our kids will become leaders. Not because they’re cleverer, but because we’ve got them intellectually close to GaoKao kids, and given them the guts to “step up” in an argument.