Perpetually Under Construction

Changes in Higher Education


As a PhD student who already has a Master’s degree, it’s safe to say that I’ve been in school for a long time. One of the things in higher education that I started to dislike over the years are the ways professors assess students in the classroom.

As a graduate student, more specifically, a PhD student, a lot of my time should be spent on research. However, when classes are structured the same way as they were in my undergraduate days, memorization is the primary form of assessment, then the point of why I need to take classes as a graduate student seem missed.

Specifically, I feel like almost any form of assessment in a PhD program should be open-everything. Mainly because, in practice the world of knowledge is always available as a reference manual that can be consulted. Having to brute memorize reference tables (like statistical distributions), almost seem like wasted effort. More important or frequently used bits of information will naturally be remembered as they are used, but to blindly memorize facts do not assess whether or not a student actually knows the take-away skills from a class.

Class projects and homework assignments seem like a good way to assess students. At the very least, they have ‘correct’ answers to a set of problems the course aims to teach, which becomes a set of reference material for the student in the future. I have bounded books of old class notes and homeworks that I constantly reference when I am working on statistical analysis.