This blog is intended to be blunt and to the point. My hope is that it will help to provoke change. Below is a letter I wrote last week to University of Victoria President Jamie Cassels. It follows an exchange I had with the UVIC Dean of Science Dr. Robert Lipson in the past 9 months about the evaluative (testing) procedures my daughter, who is presently taking 2nd and 3rd year science courses at UVIC, has been enduring. The evaluative procedures, and especially the multi-hour multiple choice exams in some subjects – are short-changing students. It’s indefensible that they persist, and Doctor Lipson’s response to me has been flippantly dismissive.
Science Faculty members and UVic administrators need to hear from parents, educators, alumni and their main clients – students – that this is not acceptable.
Attention: University of Victoria President Jamie Cassels, QC
Re: Concerns about UVIC Testing Procedures (Faculty of Science)
Dear President Cassels,
I am a parent of a 2nd-3rd year science faculty student at UVic. I am also an award-winning, career educator myself, after beginning my post-secondary career with a science degree at UBC 33 years ago.
I have been in some exchange in the past year with Dr. Robert Lipson, Dean of the Faculty of Science, about the quality of culminating learning events* my daughter is experiencing in her classes (* up to 3-hour, Multiple Choice Tests).
I wanted to bring this to your attention because I have found the responses from Dr. Lipson to me to be inadequate. Last spring he responded to me by saying the Faculty of Science just could not afford personalized testing experiences for first year science students. More recently, he merely acknowledged receipt of my second criticism and encouraged me to bring my concerns to other UVic personnel if I was so inclined.
I am so inclined Mr. Cassels. As a parent who is helping my daughter pay tuition fees I am naturally concerned that her enrolment and university education translate into quality learning experiences. Yet I am wholly doubting that when standardized procedures such as multiple-choice testing – that is commonly acknowledged among education specialists as the most dubious and unreliable testing procedure – are chosen as the culminating learning and evaluative procedures in first and second year courses.
Dean Lipson assures me that final course grades are not wholly determined on the basis of multiple choice testing outcomes. Thank goodness for that. However, my daughter reports that she and her peers often find the evaluative processes to which they have been subject throughout their coursework to be likewise of dubious value, unfair and of little perceived value to them.
I’m sorry Mr. Cassels, this just isn’t making the grade. My daughter and her peers attending UVic deserve a better shake than this. Especially, they deserve learning and evaluative experiences that are of higher quality than they are experiencing for the investment of money and life energy they, and their families, are contributing to post-secondary experiences like the Faculty of Science at UVic.
To my perception, addressing this issue requires a willingness to authentically explore the ecology of learning and evaluation, and set aside options like multiple-choice testing which neither serve your clients nor bolster the integrity of the science or any faculty at UVic. This is especially warranted given recent insights into optimizing learning from cognitive and neuroscience, psychology and education. In this case I am certain students and UVic have little to risk yet much to gain.
As a parent of university-age children yourself, I hope you agree this generation of undergraduate learners is worth it.
– Michael Maser
I have yet to receive a response from Mr. Cassels. I’ll update this blog site with his response when I do get it. And I will get it.
Multiple Choice Testing is an outmoded relic of the horse-and-buggy era, when it was first forged. Its use has never been adequately qualified as a valid testing instrument, and its use today does NOT serve the higher learning interests of students.