I talk about this a lot myself. My primary gripes are that teachers often teach unimportant things because they are easy to grade. Sometimes, I see meaningless questions asked because they lend themselves well to an easily gradable format. Here’s a disguised version of one I saw –
The Social Security Act was passed by Congress in ….
or D. 1928.
If your career and life depend on knowing the year that social security passed in the format of a Jeopardy question, that would be a good question. In every other way it is useless.
How should the questions be phrased? Like this –
The Social Security Act was passed by Congress in …
A. The first few years of the Roosevelt Administration.
B. The last years of the Hoover Administration.
C. As one of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the mid-sixties.
or D. With the founding of the Constitution.
This places the Social Security Act in historical perspective, and it allows reasoning to be used. You can use what you learned in a variety of venues to determine if the act would have been something that the founding fathers or Herbert Hoover would have done.
I believe in teaching difficult subjects. I believe my students can handle difficult material. And I believe that teaching is an art whose highest practitioners can rise to meet the challenges of complexity and ambiguity.