Hundreds of students were writing end of semester exams in L.V. Rogers’ gymnasium on Wednesday morning

Hundreds of students were writing end of semester exams in L.V. Rogers’ gymnasium on Wednesday morning

Exam season evolving

Traditional assessment strategies are being questioned in SD8, students are transitioning to digital technologies.

Hundreds of students filed into the L.V. Rogers’ gymnasium to write their end of semester provincial exams on Wednesday morning, taking their places at generously spaced desks.

It’s a scene that would seem familiar to most Kootenay residents, but in today’s evolving educational environment administrators are starting to question whether it’s the most effective way to support learners.

“With provincials every year it’s a big question mark to see if the government is going to keep them going, or if they’re going to go away. We haven’t heard anything yet,” said Principal Tim Hutteman, as he watched his charges mill around the entrance nervously.

“There’s a mixture of anxiety. A lot of kids have done a lot of work and their teachers have given them really clear outlines. Generally there’s not a lot of surprises. Most of them have cramped hands by the end. That’s what I hear most: ‘my hands are killing me!’”

Hutteman told the Star that he doesn’t believe the way provincial exams are currently being run is the best way to support their learners, and is quickly becoming an outdated model. He noted that while the students were sitting in the gymnasium, elsewhere in the school health and career education students were presenting their work digitally.

“They’re putting together all their learning for their teacher on a computer platform with video clips, photos. They’ve put it all together themselves and they can share it. These kids will have to do this again in Grade 12 for Grad Transitions, so they’re learning it now.”

He said the school may look different by the time those students graduate.

“They’re going to entirely digital by the time they get to Grade 12, so instead of holding up a hockey puck or pictures of their family, they’ll be able to present something digitally.”

Grade 11 student Moss Mathieson, who was taking her Pre-Calculus 11 exam on Wednesday, said she’s been studying almost non-stop.

“I’ve been studying for quite a few days. Yesterday I got out of my English exam and studied until 12 at night,” she said. And though she found the environment a little nerve-wracking, she was confident she would succeed.

“I don’t mind doing written tests like this, but being in the gym here with everyone is pretty stressful,” she said.

At the next desk, her friend Hannah Montgomery was feeling similarly confident.

“It’s worth 25 per cent of our mark, so it’s not too bad because we’ve got good marks anyway,” she said, noting she spent a full 24 hours studying.

The girls said they would welcome a transition away from traditional exams. Graham Hurst, who was taking a Foundations 11 exam, agreed.

“Some people get really nervous around exams, and with so many people around and so much pressure it might make them perform not as well as they normally would.”

He said he would be open to a new form of learning.

“I wouldn’t say no to it.”

Superintendent Jeff Jones echoed Hutteman’s sentiment about provincial exams, saying he hopes they will be phased out in the near future.

“What we know is as we move toward toward our future in public education, we think it’s important students can demonstrate competencies and skills, rather than focusing on memorization and acquisition of knowledge,” he said.

“Our assessment strategies are changing dramatically here, as they are throughout the province.”

Jones noted the school board recently allocated $200,000 to go towards Next Generation Network upgrades, to prepare them for B.C.’s planned technology infrastructure upgrades.

They’re currently scheduled for upgrades towards the end of the schedule, but are lobbying to be moved up on the list.

“With the board’s approval of surplus dollars we believe we’re far more ready to move forward with the project,” he said. They have sent a letter to the province pleading their case.

Meanwhile, students will continue to use pencils to fill in paper booklets, with all their technological devices safely turned off and stowed away.