UCLA Professor 'Flips the Test'


CHEATING ALTERNATIVE: Instead of limiting resource aides and reducing tests to rote memorization exercises, what if educators made all resources available to test-takers and greatly increased the difficulty and intended purpose of the tests? That was the approach tested and now championed by UCLA Behavioral Ecology professor Peter Nonacs. Of course, advanced economics and engineering students have been privy to one-page cheatsheets and open-book tests for awhile now -- knowing which equation to use is hardly an advantage. But Nonacs' approach purposefully embodied the subject matter at hand. He writes:

"Who in their right mind would condone and encourage cheating among UCLA juniors and seniors? Perhaps someone with the idea that concepts in animal behavior can be taught by making their students live those concepts."

In his quest to help students understand evolutionary game theory, Nonac explicitly set the testing conditions to reflect the concepts being taught. The Dewey-esque final exam ensured that his students walked away with more than just cool facts on animal behavior.

Of course, animalistic game theory may be (surprisingly!) easier to simulate through testing than, say, fractions and decimals, but Nonac's success demonstrates that summative assessments need not be all multiple choice and objective answers. Says Nonac on his test design: "The best tests will not only find out what students know but also stimulate thinking in novel ways."

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