Higher Education: Discussing Tick-Box Learning

Higher Education: Discussing Tick-Box Learning

Jesse Martin 02/11/2020 5
Higher Education: Discussing Tick-Box Learning

Education is about learning. However, as we became fully immersed in this pandemic, everything in higher education must be accounted including tick-box learning.

Accountability has become a primary concern for teachers.

Higher education has become expensive in 2002. When taxes are used to pay for education, we demand some form of accountability, but we have gone overboard.

Education has become enslaved by bean counters.

Since the advent of ubiquitous computing and remote teaching, there has been a relentless push for the metrification of education.

Give us some numbers that we can compare to see how well learning is going on. This is the basis for standardized testing.

This is the reason for endless performance reviews including finer grained assessments and micromanaging learning units. All things that can be measured.

This has become standard in higher education, even though there is not the push for the same level of accountability than there is in the public school system. Anything that can be measured is measured.

In higher education, because of the sheer amount of content that teachers have yoked themselves to, everything that is learned is unitized and tick-boxed. Multiple-choice tests (and other simple answer tests) are the ultimate tick-box exercise. Measure the content domain by randomly selecting micro-learning concepts for measurement. However, this does not excuse the other types of assessments as tick-box exercises. Whether it is a long essay or an essay exam, the more subjective type of assessment is still a tick-box exercise. Does the student tick all the right boxes with his or her answer? That is even how academics talk about these kinds of assignments.

Does the student know the right answer(s) to give? Not only that, we grade the answers in the same way that a factory (grade ‘A’ quality steel) or meat packing plant grades (grade ‘A’ quality beef) grades their products.

Tick-box learning is inefficient.

Have the students demonstrated that they know X? How well do they know X? Do they know that there is a controversy in the field of study? Do they know the details of the controversy? Can they successfully argue (recite) either side of the controversy?

All we have are hoops to jump through to demonstrate that the students have memorized stuff (arguments, nuances, procedures…) we already know, hoops that can be quantified and recorded to ensure proper accountability.

Tick-box learning is not a great system for the massive societal transformation we find ourselves in.

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  • Keith Charlton

    Tick box learning is useless !!!

  • Jason Gaynor

    It's time to reform higher education

  • Ian Holmes

    Good piece

  • Natalie Malloch

    You can't judge students if they master a topic with tick box exams

  • Jack Knowles

    Well said Jesse

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Jesse Martin

Higher Education Expert

Jesse is a world leader in the integration of the science of learning into formal teaching settings. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Lethbridge and Director at The Academy for the Scholarship of Learning. Huge advocate of the science of learning, he provides people with ideas about how they can use it in their classrooms. Jesse holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wales, Bangor.


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