Being a scholar means reading broadly and thinking about what you read.  Unfortunately this is a challenge when you spend an entire weekend studying for an old-style exam.  Being a scholar also means doing research, which means learning research methods.  Unfortunately it is invariably the research methods teachers who decide to use old-school methods of testing.

I spent much of this weekend (and last weekend for that matter, not to mention several weeknights) preparing for an exam on MANOVA, discriminant analysis and logistic regression.  It is a closed book, closed notes, in class short answer blue-book test scheduled for Wednesday night.

I don’t understand the purpose of that kind of test in a graduate class that you can’t even get into for the first couple of years due to prerequisites.  When I use these techniques, I will do it with my notes in front of me, including annotated SPSS output and guidance on interpreting the results.  All I need to memorize is the types of questions I might use these techniques to answer so that I think of them when I face those types of research questions.  Yet this faculty member thinks this is the best way to test me on this information.

More appropriate, to my mind, would have been a short paper analyzing a data set using one of these types of techniques.  That will be for later in the semester, and we are being required to use exploratory factor analysis for it.  Unfortunately factor analysis is singularly unsuited to the type of research I am doing, whereas logistic regression (on which we spent 1 night and no homework, and which will be less than 15% of this midterm) is VERY appropriate.

Moreover, I find closed book closed notes tests like this almost entirely pointless.  They force students to go well beyond understanding the material and into memorizing things, which in the end will be less effective.  More sophisticated interpretation questions can be asked of a student (and answered coherently) when they focus their attention on really internalizing the material rather than memorizing.

Regardless, other than my notes and the textbook for this exam, I have read nothing this weekend.  I have 2 articles I have to read before my other class on Thursday and a paper that I need to finish revisions on, but that will have to wait.  As will the 3 bookshelves full of scholarly reading I need to start making progress on.  I can’t wait until this semester is over and I am DONE with classwork.

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