Separating Grading From Teaching Without “Teaching To The Test”

One of the quirks of educational practice is that testing and teaching are typically done by the same institution and most often done by the very same person. But the main alternatives to doing it this way tend to invite the criticism that instructors will now merely “teach to the test.” Arnold Kling, in the course of outlining a larger project, offers a concrete example of an alternative method:

The practicality of “test to what you teach” as a model for independent grading has been demonstrated by the Swarthmore College Honors program. The courses are seminars, taken by juniors and seniors in their major and minor subjects. The professors who teach the courses have control over the curriculum. The college hires outside examiners who write exams, based on syllabus material supplied by the instructors. The college administers the exams, and the outside examiners grade them. In the Swarthmore program, the exams are all free-response, without any machine-graded component. They also include an oral component. For A Means A, the mix of machine-graded,, free-response, and oral examinations is yet to be determined.

That seems clever. Basically the teacher says in advance what he or she is going to try to teach, and then the exam-designer is responsible for building a test of that material and the teacher is responsible for teaching it.