The Five Minute University

This classic clip from a Father Guido Sarducci stand up routine was shown a couple of times as a conference I attended recently. Unfortunately, this caricature of the extent and depth of learning at university is not too far from the truth. Ideally, learning experience should translate into competence, but so long as assessments focus on testing memories rather than skills, the probability of this happening remains low.

This problem has become particularly acute in recent times as the gap between university curricula and the knowledge and skills required in a digital age has widened. It has been a hot topic in India for a while now, but as a quick Google search demonstrates, it is a global problem.

The solution? Well, Father Sarducci may have the right formula. Start by asking what a graduate should be able to do once they finish.

Hopefully, this should take longer than five minutes.

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Posted in Authentic assessment, Practical advice
2 comments on “The Five Minute University
  1. Loved the video clip of Father Guido Sarducci and it all rings true! Learning by rote and memory recall is still how a lot of education and learning is assessed. Has learning moved forward from this? How do we assess real individual learning rather than repetition of others views/theories or shared/created community views in the online social network age? Do we end up with a consensus of commonly held views and beliefs rather than new original thought? As a teacher, trainer and assessor I am interested in the challenge this presents us.

  2. techherding says:

    I’ve always felt that the best courseware design (with my apologies to ADDIE) start when I ask my client to help me to write the assessment FIRST. Once I know exactly WHAT they want to measure, and HOW they intend to measure it — my job as a designer is much, much easier.

    If you’re just measuring “recall”, that’s a valid (if kind of sad) level of learning. But if you move up the Kirkpatrick scale, you may require that the student actually be able to implement some of that knowledge or even apply it in a new situation.

    I sometimes ask clients if they’d rather get on an airplane home from my workshop with a pilot who had been “exposed” to piloting skills in a lecture or if they’d like someone who had successfully landed a jumbo jet in the Hudson river saving everyone on board. This helps them understand the difference, and the corresponding difficulty and expense involved in teaching.

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