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Your job as a teacher or as a presenter is to extend the available materials, and to provide me with insights that I might not gain from Googling existing materials.

Not to prevent me from accessing the available materials.

Not to control access to information.

If what I am learning from your teachings and from your tests and from other students can be entirely replaced by Googling through test banks, then you're not helping me advance.

If a presenter is reading off the slides?

If you're not utilizing what is available, whether Google or Khan Academy or iTunes classes or otherwise, you're not helping me make connections. To think. To research.

We see similar transitions arising in many human pursuits. In journalism. Booking travel. Financial markets. Programming. Music. And education. And in an earlier era of teaching, simply bringing calculators to a test.

Don't make me memorize. Make me think. Make me research.

It appears the professor has unwittingly also proved his teaching approach has failed.

"Your job as a teacher or as a presenter is to extend the available materials"

I'm puzzled by this. Let's say you teach basic physics or algebra... how are you supposed to "extend" the material, particularly testing material?

I always thought the benefits of having a teacher were: 1. Human contact 2. Ability to answer arbitrary questions in an instant 3. Ability to adapt lectures to the audience 4. Students in the presence of a room full of other people trying to learn the same thing at the same time

Those would all be great benefits even if the tests were all the same, administered in a standardized way, nationwide, by third-party proctors with third-party graders.

That's not to say that there's anything wrong with independent study, online courses, or ad-hoc groups of students learning together.

I just take issue with the idea that a teacher, in order to do their job, must also compose novel tests every year as though the new tests would somehow be better than all the other tests used over the years. If teaching honest students, it just doesn't sound like an efficient use of teaching resources to re-invent the wheel each time.

And there are objective benefits to using the same or similar tests from year to year. One is that you can see if your class is improving or lagging in specific areas compared with previous classes. That could help you hone your teaching over the years. Wow, I tried playing this game to illustrate economics, and these students scored way higher on the arbitrage questions than the previous 5 years! Or: "gee, I thought that group project might be good, but the test scores dropped this year".

Thinking like the instructor/presenter/seller quite clearly, though also remember to think like the student/purchaser, too.

You're clearly familiar with running the process line and incremental improvements for yourself and optimizing your work, but are you equally comfortable being the widget that's being processed within the assembly line, and whether the widget is getting the best value?

My trip down that educational assembly line was seriously and mind-numbingly unpleasant, and I can only imagine what it's like with all of the current standardized-tests model. Looking back, what we were taught and what we learned for those tests was sufficiently ridiculous and, well, wasteful. We didn't learn that most of what we learned would be outmoded, that the tools we were taught would be gone, and that memorization was far less practical than learning how to research.

As a presenter, I don't want to repeat that for the folks I am teaching. Though thankfully, I don't have to teach to standardized tests.

As an instructor, you're selling a service. Are your students buying?

"are you equally comfortable being the widget that's being processed within the assembly line, and whether the widget is getting the best value?"

A valid point. There are many ways of learning though, and if you want instruction and materials personalized to you, those are available -- albeit at a much higher cost. And there are other, self-directed methods of learning that are a much lower cost than either method (e.g., going to a library, doing research online, etc.). [Aside: who pays the cost is a separate issue, but someone must pay it.]

Given that society is constrained by scarce resources, I think that re-using tests is a perfectly reasonable allocation of resources for many teaching situations. Other materials are re-used regularly, such as textbooks, and there's nothing personal about that. Would you say that using the same textbook as someone else turns you into a "widget"?

It's unfortunate that your educational experience was so unpleasant. My K-12 experience seemed quite wasteful as well. But I think that has more to do with incompetence and laziness. Doing more personalized teaching requires more teachers, which means they will have an even harder time attracting enough quality talent, and an even harder time firing bad teachers. That doesn't sound like a net win on quality to me, even if it is more personalized.

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