• Christian Paul

Why Folios and Projects Are Better Than Exams (Even For Maths)

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

Do you remember doing “projects” in Primary School? They were about as much fun as you could have while still being productive.

Posters, Slideshows, Dioramas…

Students (usually) put heart and soul into those projects, with many spending tens of hours on a single piece.

More importantly, those hours always paid off in the results.

It’s always easy to see which projects are given time and attention, and which ones are just rushed.

But as students move in their senior years of education, those projects are left behind in favour of tests and examinations. With the exception of certain art-based subjects, most academic evaluation is done via the written test.

Primary School is better at preparing students for the real world than High School

Why? Because in the world of careers and professions, nobody sits written tests. We’re given tasks, projects, and large scale jobs to complete.

Which means that the process of completing a project is far more useful than being able to answer questions under time constraints. Think of everything that goes into a typical school project:

  1. Planning

  2. Research

  3. Resource gathering

  4. Breakdown and ordering of necessary tasks

  5. Job delegation (in the case of group projects)

  6. Planning of job completion dates

  7. Problem-solving

  8. Collaboration

  9. Presentation

Now think of what would be necessary if an employer asked you to build a website or a booklet for a business. I’m betting that the list of jobs would be very similar.

Projects simulate real world challenges much better than tests possibly could

Primary School does a great job of teaching us how to plan out and coordinate a project, but we’ve usually forgotten by the time we get to late high school.

Art and folio subjects are a great (but sometimes rude) reminder of how those projects work.

And while many students moan and groan about how much work a folio subject is, it is truthfully far more beneficial than the assessments in most other subjects.

Could we really use folios and projects for all subjects?

Short answer? Yes.

Maths subjects would move into assignments that help students investigate applications of principles and mathematical methods. The IB already does this beautifully.

Science based subjects would move more into research and reports.

English would allow students to more fully explore essays and analytical writing, without having to stress about rushing their thoughts and scribbling the first thing that comes to mind.

The potential is there. With some exploration, school and education can be turned from a place of facts into an environment where students can learn those critical skills and understanding that will be required of them in the years ahead.

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