Thursday, July 19, 2007

WIMWI fundaes I - How to make an easy subject 'challenging'

Method 1 - Set surprise quizzes with humanly impossible time limits.

See it's very simple. A small problem that is modelled on a longer exam problem and is about one fourth its size requires about one fourth its time to solve. This much should be obvious. If the longer exam is 3 hours, the shorter one should be 45 minutes. This is simple division. If you give 15 minutes, nobody will be able to complete the paper. This is common sense. What does not make sense is why people so capable would choose to forego simple mathematics and common sense when trying to test students.

What exactly did you test today, WIMWI? My writing speed? Or the speed at which I can push numbers into my calculator? It couldn't be calibre, but maybe you don't even want to test that. It couldn't be learning (which is what you should ideally test) because apart from one minor detail, there was nothing in the case that could possibly involve any of us in any amount of thought. You aren't even trying to test us on our reactions to time pressure. Time pressure exists when one has to make a choice and prioritise - there was hardly a choice to be made today. Time pressure exists when you pose something that is possibly doable in a certain time with some extra effort and hence you can separate those who will put in that effort from those who won't. Today, the paper was not attemptable in 15 minutes. There was no time pressure - everyne knew that everyone would leave an incomplete answer sheet. Oh ya, the answer sheets. Financial statements teen or sheet keval ek. Bahut nainsaafi thi.

Granted, Financial Accounting is not rocket science, as people here are so fond of repeating. In fact, addition and subtraction based around one fundamental concept does not even match elementary physics, forget about rocket science. Yet, there have to be better ways of making a quiz more challenging than simply keeping a ridiculously low time limit. Yesterday, in the Quant test, you posed me a challenge I could be proud of solving. You posed us a challenge that drove many to desperation. Today, in FinAcc, you have caused no desperation - only indifference. I won't be happy if I do well, I won't be sad if I underperform. And to be sure, I am no believer in Karma Yoga or in the idea of the stithapragya man.

It's been a great four weeks WIMWI. But today, you have left me disappointed. I have no bile. I only have a smirk.