Thursday, November 16, 2006


Yesterday my colleague and I planned our workshop on open-book exams.

Giving a workshop is itself a form of teaching, with the difference that the 'students' are our peers. In any teaching, the students learn best the ideas they come up with themselves, so the participants are going to spend much of the 90 minute workshop doing activities that will raise in their minds the ideas we want to develop.

So they will first write down why they currently give closed-book exams, and what problems might arise if they just let students bring their books and notes to such an exam. Then they'll come up with possible advantages and disadvantages of open-book exams. And finally they'll evaluate the suitability of various exam questions for use in an open-book exam, suggest ways to convert unsuitable questions into suitable ones, and from this generate a set of principles to use in evaluating other questions.

Our roles will be mainly to direct the activities and discussion, and to record the ideas on flip charts. We've developed our own lists of ideas, but we'll use these only if the participants miss something we think is important. We also have a page of sample exam questions that participants can evaluate (I had fun making this last night), but we've encouraged them to bring
questions from their own exams.

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