Open Note Testing Might be the Solution


Photo taken by Zoe Nguyen

Education and school have made revolutionary adjustments in order to cope with coronavirus changes forced upon the world. From mastering the art of Zoom to creating masks with a school mascot on them, on a surface level, students, teachers, and faculty have seemed to finally gotten into the rhythm of life. However, one of the most prominent topics that has not been ethically adjusted is testing between the multimodal ways of attending school. Zoom creates another realm of opportunities for students to cheat, without the worry of the teacher looking at the notes that they have put on their desk, or the open tab on their browser. Cheating has become easier to do, and even harder to catch. Thus, students should be given open notes tests, such that instead of testing for rehearsal, it challenges the students to think critically.

A variety of classes take open and closed note tests, all of which have interesting results. “For the most part, all of the closed note tests that are taken, online students often get better grades due to the accessibility of the internet,” said junior Megan Gunter, a full IB student. “I really can’t blame them. Being online doesn’t have the same pressure of maintaining integrity compared to in person.”  

From a student perspective, there are worries of unfair advantages that students online receive. Due to not being able to take the same testing precautions and proctoring, the likelihood of cheating has greatly increased for students online.

“To make assessments as fair as possible, it is all about referencing the transactional distance model,” said Wesley Adams, a biology teacher at The Village High School. The Transactional Distance Model represents the transformation of communication through the varieties, environment, and mediums used. Different mediums of communication can affect the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the spread of information. This can bring up the concern of multimodal learning and the communication between online, in-person and asynchronous students, as the same message may not have the same effect or impact on the student. Some students have to be more independent on learning by themselves, and this can create an inconfidence in abilities, which may transfer into cheating on tests.

“With that, it is not smart to rely on the integrity of the students,” said Adams, “It’s not foolproof.” The solution of eliminating the advantage that online or asynchronous students have over the in-person students, is creating tests that require critical thinking in opposition to standard robotic testing. This would allow students to have access to the entire internet, and their own notes, but the questions would require answers that would not be typically found on the internet. This would encourage students to better understand what they are learning in school conceptually, and make it easier to implement their findings in instances outside of testing and school.

However, tests and quizzes that use critical thinking are not a definite solution for test-taking. “Tests that require robotic and rehearsed learning provide emotional incentive, sometimes making the connection that critical thinking-based tests demand, is too hard for students,” said Adams. Even though critical thinking has a lot of things that are appealing, the mental health and confidence of students might be injured due to the structure of these tests. Basic tests that involve memorizing vocabulary or simple concepts, give students confidence and motivation. Sometimes having to constantly think critically and analyze, while still staying motivated,  is close to impossible. This effect can be detrimental to the spirits of the student. There needs to be an incentive for them to participate, and work hard in the class.

Implementing higher-order thinking into assessments, that students have to take by hand with open notes, encourages the application and analysis of taught curriculum. However, even though there are multiple pros to open note tests, it can surface issues like self-doubt, stress, and a loss of motivation for a strenuous academic life.