kitchen table math, the sequel: IB World History Test

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

IB World History Test

My 9th grade son was working on his home enjoyment.
"Mom!", he shouted, "Come look at the test I have to take". I think he just likes to get me riled up.


(Click to enlarge)



















Contrast this paper with this one, making the rounds of the internet: Are you smarter than a 1954 8th grader?

I think I may still have some glitter laying around.

27 comments:

Amy P said...

I wouldn't like this as a project either, but why the heck is this an in-class test rather than an at-home project?

Anonymous said...

The middle two examples of dividing the sheet into two equal sized parts are ... interesting ...

-Mark Roulo

Kai said...

While I didn't understand the point of the IB test, I also wasn't particularly impressed with the 1954 test. The 1954 test was only about memorization. There wasn't a single question requiring a thoughtful answer on the entire thing.

This is another example of a "bogus dichotomy" in education that Hung-Hsi Wu talks about. We had too much fact regurgitation in 1954 so now we have none.

Balance. We need balance.

Amy P said...

Note that the 9th grade IB history test questions demonstrate no evidence of actual area knowledge by the person who set it. You could almost replace "India" and "China" with any two other countries and have essentially the same exam.

I've seen gauzy generalized IB elementary work, but was prepared to think better of their high school program. This test definitely goes into the file for the prosecution.

Amy P said...

The 1954 test does contain a lot of rote knowledge, but it's a nice jumping off place for further study, especially for an 8th grader. The more you know, the better you are placed to learn even more. I think E. D. Hirsch would definitely approve.

Anonymous said...

My response to the test - WTF?

Allison said...

Would it make you feel worse or better if I said that such an assignment was well in line with the kind of critical thinking required in most college courses?

Doug Sundseth said...

The funny part about this (most of it is just somewhere between tragic and appalling) is the determination that some forms of art project are just inherently wrong. Why, even in the bizarre terms of this sort of thing, should a circle or spiral be inherently less worthy than a sawtooth (or a silhouette of a monkey, for that matter)?

"I'm sorry, but your puerile interpretation is wrong. Only my puerile interpretation has any legitimacy."

Allison said...

My husband just called this "glitteracy". School will teach glitteracy.

palisadesk said...

"glitteracy" -- that's brilliant (pun intended)). It goes into my vocabulary right this minute.

If we all pay him a buck every time we use the term, it would finance your homeschooling;-0

Tracy W said...

I think whoever wrote this assignment can be counted as
"You fail critical thinking forever."

The reason I'm so harsh is that absolutely nothing in this assignment's tasks will answer the question of how a society does maintain traditions while changing over time. Drawing pictures just doesn't answer the question.

Another argument for scripted lessons, many teachers just apparently have never learnt critical thinking themselves, and thus can't be expected to actually teach it.

SteveH said...

"Balance. We need balance."

What makes you think that this was all there was in the class? And who gets to decide what balance is? Balance is used nowadays to get parents to go away.

What I see in the test is high expectations. Balance and understanding are used to justify low expectations. You can't just add facts to the IB problem. How do you balance crap and facts?

SteveH said...

"glitteracy"

That's one to save.

Kai said...

"What makes you think that this was all there was in the class?"

I'm assuming you're talking about the 1954 class. I was only referring to what I saw on the test. You're right, there might have been more to both classes than we are seeing here.

"And who gets to decide what balance is? Balance is used nowadays to get parents to go away."

Who gets to decide what anything is in the public schools? This is why I homeschool.

"What I see in the test is high expectations. Balance and understanding are used to justify low expectations. You can't just add facts to the IB problem. How do you balance crap and facts?"

I wasn't suggesting that we balance crap and facts. I was suggesting that a test with 100 questions on the Constitution could have probably had a few that required answers beyond regurgitation. I wasn't really referring to the IB problem, but rather the 1954 problem. I'm suggesting that we start with facts and then add thought. The IB problem is a separate issue, and I'm the first to admit that I don't understand the IB test at all, but it seems like it is attempting to be an "opposite of facts" test.

Facts are important and I am a *huge* fan of ED Hirsch, but there is *way* more to the Constitution than what was on the 1954 test.

SteveH said...

I'm sensitive to the word balance. It's usually used to make parents go away. When my son was in fifth grade, we had a parent-teacher meeting about Everyday Math, and the discussion was redirected to "balance". It was all over because who could disagree with balance.

In my son's current 8th grade social studies class, they pretend to focus on understanding. He had to read about one our founding fathers and describe what effect he had on the constitution. I had to spend an enormous amount of time giving my son background facts and knowledge. I had to explain how important the Federalist Papers were. Unfortunately, much of the understanding attempted by schools is nothing more than expressing an opinion that's based on very few facts.

Kai said...

"Unfortunately, much of the understanding attempted by schools is nothing more than expressing an opinion that's based on very few facts."

Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

I've been saying for decades that we now have generations of high school graduates who don't know the difference between "I think" and "I feel". It's the natural result of the schools' continual focus on feelings.

palisadesk said...

I wouldn't like this as a project either, but why the heck is this an in-class test rather than an at-home project?

This is just an educated guess, but it may be because work done at home cannot be used for grading purposes. My district has such a policy (not always observed, of course). Exams and major projects and any assignment that "counts" must be mostly done in school.

palisadesk said...

I wouldn't like this as a project either, but why the heck is this an in-class test rather than an at-home project?

This is just an educated guess, but it may be because work done at home cannot be used for grading purposes. My district has such a policy (not always observed, of course). Exams and major projects and any assignment that "counts" must be mostly done in school.

Anonymous said...

"What I see in the test is high expectations." [Referring to the 1954 test, I think]

Well ... sorta.

My breakdown of the 1954 test is this:

*) Questions 1-20: ten questions with real content (the cabinet positions) and ten questions of trivia (the names of the current people who hold those jobs).

*) Questions 20-29 (actually 21-29): Pretty much trivia.

*) Questions 30-51: These seem to me to have real content, although I'd be happier with something more than just "memorize the phrases."

Most of the rest of the questions seem to have real content, but to be fairly shallow. An example of one that I think falls in the 'trivia' category is "The president takes office on ___".

So ... I'm okay with most of the content questions (e.g. "The life of each Congress is ___".) but:

(a) Wish that there was a bit more digging rather than just call/response, and

(b) Wish that less/no time had been spent on memorizing names of current holders of office (I'm fine with current president and VP, but not the current nine members of the US Supreme Court).

But ... and here is my question ... since most of this will be memorized with flashcards or something similar in the week before the test AND THEN PROMPTLY FORGOTTEN, where are the higher expectations?

If the test was to memorize the lineups of the 1954 major league baseball teams, this would be tedious and difficult, but I wouldn't call it showing high expectations. In fact, I might describe it as showing low expectations since I would expect the class to memorize/recite/forget this info. If it isn't remembered for longer than the test, where are the high expectations?

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

I know teachers who were big fans of at-home projects (for grade and frequently used) UNTIL they had kids of their own and realized what a burden they were, for both kids and parents. Just getting kids together was huge, since middle-school distances were beyond walking; not to mention the fact that everyone had extracurriculars....

CassyT said...

Allison wrote: Would it make you feel worse or better if I said that such an assignment was well in line with the kind of critical thinking required in most college courses?

Allison, I submit for your entertainment, an assignment I had to do for my Literacy 1 course, not so long ago.

Choose a letter and write an alliterative page for a children's book:

Married mynahs, Myrtle and Marvin Moriarty made their mark in melancholy melodramas mimicking a myriad of morose musical melodies moving Millicent Magpie the Movie Maven to mutter matter-of-factly; “They’re the most marshmallow-mouthed mockers I’ve ever met”

Anonymous said...

"Choose a letter and write an alliterative page for a children's book..."

My wife and I sometimes play letter games like this. I've found that the letter 'p' tends to offer lots of possibilities. :-)

One fun variation is to go for the longest sentence one can with only words beginning with a specified letter.

-Mark Roulo

Doug Sundseth said...

@ Mark Roulo:

I largely agree with your 11:13 comment, in particular as it applies to memorizing random office holders, but I will note that this bit:

"Most of the rest of the questions seem to have real content, but to be fairly shallow. An example of one that I think falls in the 'trivia' category is "The president takes office on ___"."

Refers to the only subject of one of the last three (as was in 1954) amendments to the Constitution, and that there was a real reason to pass the amendment. With that, I think the question rises above trivia.

In general, though, I agree that questions about the exact date of some historical event are largely useless. I doesn't really matter which day in November of 1963 Kennedy was assassinated, the precise date of the Apollo 11 landing is not useful other than as a reminder to celebrate the anniversary, and the dates of the Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg are only interesting in their coincidence.

What really is useful, though, is understanding correlations. For instance, knowing that the Seven Years War and the French and Indian War are the same really does tell you something important.

Amy P said...

"What really is useful, though, is understanding correlations. For instance, knowing that the Seven Years War and the French and Indian War are the same really does tell you something important."

And sequences, which does sometimes require knowing some dates. To have basic literacy about WWII, it's really important to have the sequences right, which is where your dates come in. Did Germany invade Czechoslovakia or Poland first? When did the Soviet Union become an ally? How long did it take before the US became involved? And basic geography is important too, because it helps explain the order of events.

le radical galoisien said...

I think the IB exam isn't a bad exam if the arts and craft component wouldn't take a ridiculously large amount of time.

I'm also a really bad planner -- I like to leap into essays and having to predraft would kill me.


---

Memorise, recite, forget -- I don't know if it's supposed to get better at tier 1 schools, but my ex-gf -- who scored a 2390 on the SAT -- chided me for refraining from the memorise,recite,forget technique.

Result of last semester: she had a 4.0 on 22 credits a semester and gets A+'s on upperlevel courses

I had a 3.4 on 19 creds/semester


This semester: I forget about trying to connect what I study with prior knowledge

much better exam results, but with less retention

I wonder if this is how it works in med students too -- you cram 100 biochemical pathways (or nervous pathways) on an exam. if the material gets followed up later, all well and good, but chances are that you won't discuss half of the material until after the exam -- except maybe 2 years later.

Anonymous said...

So what? I memorized all sorts of info when I was in grade school. Among other things, I memorized every preposition, in order. In 5th grade, I had to memorize about 30 vocabulary words for science with their definitions, word-for-word, with spelling and punctuation exactly the same as the books', or it was wrong. EVERY WEEK.

My favorites now?

Matter -- Anything that has mass and takes up space.

Mass -- The amount of matter in an object.

Aaaah, the inanities of grade school! Memorizing didn't make it any better, BTW. It as another fool's errand. Garbage in, garbage out.

I'd call the school about that one. "Did you know your assignment is stupid? Really? And in what way is it NOT stupid?"