Methods of Student Evaluation and the Scholar (In)success in European Universities: Universidade do Algarve

Methods of Student Evaluation and the Scholar (In)success at the Algarve University

Igor Khmelinskii, FCT, DQF, Campus de Gambelas, Universidade do Algarve, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal

The University receives students ignored by School

The main defect of the Portuguese national School system is the deliberate and official refusal to use memorization as the learning tool, and the refusal to develop memorization capacities of the student. This refusal makes the fundamental part of the paradigm of "critical, creative and independent thinking" that came up in the USA and was later adopted in Europe, and from 1980's in Portugal as well. One of the main results of this paradigm is the widespread scholar failure of those students whose long-term memorization capacities (PAM – permanent associative memorization, what we need in order to accumulate knowledge) are initially low. Such students require radical improvements in PAM, starting from the 1st year of primary school, but are not getting any support or help from School, due to the curricular structure and teaching methods adopted. The existence of the problem was concealed by the Ministry of Education several years ago, by lowering the approval requirements at the National Exams of Portuguese Language and Mathematics in such a way that most of the students are now approved. Thus, today those students, whose knowledge is worth 5 points on the scale of 0 to 20, receive 10 points at the National Exams, and enter the University.

Continuous evaluation – tests, group assignments, lab reports, essays

The group assignments and the reports/essays do not evaluate knowledge; they do evaluate student work (the time spent) and the diligence of the student. The evaluation by in-semester tests, the form very much preferred by both students and their professors, in weak students only the evaluates the short-term, transient memorization capacity (STM; indeed, these students never got to develop their PAM, and that is the very reason why they are weak) – in a week of less, the student is able to read (and even to learn by heart!) one or two textbook chapters, and then during the test (helped by the very formulation of the question, or by several versions of the answer, in multiple choice questions) is able to remember enough to pass on the test, forgetting everything completely during the following weeks (although if we ask them if they had studied a certain curricular matter, they may even confirm that, recalling some titles). Obviously making an average grade of the tests with the reports and group assignments it is possible to deduce even a really good final grade – which, however, does not correspond to the student's knowledge.

Evaluation by exam

The exam evaluates the knowledge stored both by the PAM mechanism and – during the days of preparation to the exam – by way of the STM mechanism. Obviously the weak students fail the exam, as with their habit to study for the tests, they try to do the same for the exam - namely, try to pass by studying during one week only. However, it is not by chance that an entire semester exists for the studies – it is impossible to do in several days what can be done in a semester. Additionally, the storage capacity of the STM mechanism is quite limited, and insufficient for the curricular matter of an entire discipline. On the contrary, the PAM mechanism has a practically unlimited storage capacity, which, however, can not kick in quickly – the same information has to be presented several times in different ways, before it eventually finds its place in the PAM. Thus, the study-for-tests strategy can not possibly work for the exams; neither can it provide the weak students with knowledge.

Conclusions and recommendations

Student evaluation by tests, group assignments and reports, in the first place of students who are weak and don't have correct studying habits, cheats both students and professors, because weak students without knowledge are getting approved, thus everyone believes that good teaching/study work have been done, whereas the reality is completely different.

Thus, we recommend evaluating students by exam. Additionally, the absence of tests during the semester facilitates the continuous and devoted study effort, with students not stopping to study in order "to prepare for a test". We must help the development of PAM capacities and correct study habits in students, stimulating them to make annotated lecture notes, study the textbooks regularly, make home tasks and bring their questions and doubts to the classroom, etc. Those who insist evaluating students by tests could make surprise tests or mini-tests every day, in such a way that no special preparation is required or allowed, enabling systematic study work during the semester. In this latter case, however, the professors should be aware that they are not evaluating the students' knowledge, but only their STM capacities instead.


1. I. Khmelinskii, Educação em Portugal, online:
2. I. Khmelinskii, School in Europe, online:

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