From The Archive: On Teaching Fashion: Exam Time

This From The Archive post addresses the stress of exam time for both students and teachers. Written by  Lauren Michel in December 2009, it encourages discussion on best practices for tackling giving and completing exams.   Also, it includes a fun fashion “exam” from 1956 for all of our readers.

It’s winter here in the northern hemisphere, meaning that my school is winding down for a five-week winter break. Depending on who you are, or where you are, it is also the Christmas season. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” as the classic Christmas song goes. Whether it is or is not, from the point of view of a teacher or a student, is debateable. I, for one, have grown accustomed to the end-of-term deluge of papers and exams to grade, and grades to tabulate; the mid-year break that I have coming up a week from now make it all worthwhile, and then some. Don’t get me wrong. I love my work. Love it. Love, love, love it. But seriously, who couldn’t enjoy a five-week break from work? Only Ebenezer Scrooge, that’s who. Not that I won’t be working. I have the upcoming term to prepare for and some traveling on the calendar, but I get to plan my own schedule, more or less, and that is always nice to do from time to time.

One of the things that is not one of my most favorite parts of my work is exams. I like them as a means of assessment: determining what students are taking away from lectures and retaining from their assignments. I like them as pedagogical tool (in theory, exams can be one way to “encourage” students to pay attention in class, do their assignments and read their textbooks and other assigned materials). What I dislike, however, is feeling like time is being wasted, either on the part of my students, or on my part. Grading the exam of a student who clearly did not prepare is a waste of my time; when students fail to read their textbooks steadily throughout the term (one or two chapters per week), and only read them in last-minute preparation for exams, they may be wasting their own time (compromising what they retain in the short term and diminishing what they retain in the long term, if anything).

Here are a few questions I have for you, dear readers:

For my fellow instructors, how do you assess your students? In my practical classes, I usually have my students prepare a portfolio throughout the term, demonstrating their acquisition of the required skills. In my academic classes, I have written assignments, research papers, and short answer and multiple-choice exams.

To those of you working in the fashion industry today, what do you recall learning in college and university fashion and/or business courses that you have used in your career? Of that information, what helped you retain it, and how, if ever, were you assessed on your learning of that information in your classes?

While we are on the subject of testing fashion students, here is a test for all readers: Test Your Fashion I.Q., a quiz from 1956, over at Couture Allure.

And moi, I’m off to put the finishing touches on my final exams for the term. Wish my students luck, everyone!

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