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Featured Test blindness?

Discussion in 'Education and Employment' started by NecroCurator, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. NecroCurator

    NecroCurator Active Member

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    Does anyone else have a particularly hard time with tests, both in school and in bureucracy? I know mindblindness, but my "test blindness" is so much more severe. It really has cost several attempts at education.

    What I mean with test blindness, is the seemingly magical ability that some people have with reading the mind of the teacher. Whenever there are tests there is also some ambiguity as to the questions in the text. I might know the topic, but my pervasive inability to understand what the teacher wants me to say, costs me points every single time. Two examples that have left me more serious traumas than the rest:

    1. My high-school history teacher made the class write an essay with the headline reading simply: "City walls in medieval Europe". Now, as I am sure alot of autistic people notice, that can mean just about anything. I was dumbfounded from the start, and asking was bordering on asking the teacher for answers, I simply wrote on the history of city walls. I started with how they developed originally from Roman walled forts, which started to attract people with the barbarian invasions. I told how they got bigger and how their structure developed over time from simple palisades to well planned defensive systems.

    Well, it turned out that wasn't at all what he wanted to know. He wanted to know about their use. Especially he wanted to check that we understood how defense and military wasn't the only use walls had. He wanted to know how they were used for funneling trade, controlling taxation and for crowd control. I, being a big history buff at the time, knew all this, so it struck me really bad that I lost the whole essays worth of points due to not being able to read the teacher's mind from that ambiguous headline. Worse than that, no one else seemed to have any problem. Apparently it was supposed to be obvious that the teacher was referring to a chapter in our course book, which had this structure within it. I just couldn't connect the dots, and I simply assumed he wanted to know something general about city walls.

    Anyway, here is example number 2.

    In my entry exams for university, one of the essays was to present and explain 4 arguments in defense of democracy. That is what I proceeded to do. Well, as with the last bit, I was somehow supposed to understand that "to explain" an argument included an analysis about the weaknesses of the argument. In my mind, I was simply asked to present 4 defenses or democracy, so while I had read about their weaknesses as well, I categorized these as arguments against democracy. As I knew plenty of weaknesses in these arguments (or as I thought, I knew plenty of arguments against democracy), I was paralyzed by the stupidity of the mistake. I just thought that as I was not specifically asked to present counter-arguments, that then I shouldn't present counter-arguments. And as always, no one else seemed to have problems with understanding the questions. Others were instead struggling with the answers.

    I know that a certain amount of this is normal, but I wanted to give an example on what I'm talking about. Trust me, these two instances are just the tip of the iceberg. Anyway, what I want to know, is that does anyone else have a particular problem with tests this way. Does it have something to do with mind blindness?
     
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  2. Autistamatic

    Autistamatic He's just this guy, you know?

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    I would say yes - it's an unconventional example of how ASD's variation of Theory of Mind can be a disadvantage. If people are not explicit in their requirements or questions, we may not give the answer they actually want.
    For what it's worth I have done the same in many a test :)
     
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  3. Moomin

    Moomin “My servants never die!”

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    I have experienced similar problems. I’m also just bad at taking exams. I get very anxious and mind freeze. What helped me was getting academic support whilst at university. Really helped me. And I also read my study skills book, which I still have.
     
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  4. Iamnotarabot

    Iamnotarabot Well-Known Member

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    I had and still have the same problems sometimes , I didnt connect that to ASD but it might be connected.

    I worked on that by just learning harder my classes (well at the moment I don't do it correctly hehe but when I was doing good this is how I did it.)
    When you have a class to learn learn the structure of the lesson (titles and subtitles) as much as the content, if you only learn the content without orgasing it well you might just remember only a part of it at the time of the exam.

    In my last year of hightschool we spent a very long time analysing a subject of an exam word by word.
    I guess I can see that "present and explain" are two words, basically if the question was just to present 4 argument they wouldnt use the word " explain" in addition to it.

    But on this one I would have missed the "explain" aswell, for me it would just mean to detail it further than just a presentation...to some degree its always a matter of trials and errors.

    I dont know if you live in an english speaking country but english is also a language I found a bit more vague than french for instance so it depends even more on context.

    And during classes in college I had this problem a lot, to know the answer of a question asked by the teacher during the class, but the way he was asking it didnt help me to understand what he wanted me to say so I didnt answer.
     
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  5. tducey

    tducey Well-Known Member

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    Thinking about it I believe I've had similar experiences as the OP.
     
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  6. Kyou Nukui

    Kyou Nukui can do custom titles now. >:D

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    Me too. All of it was so long ago though, I can't think of an example.
     
  7. TempeFan

    TempeFan Active Member

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    Essays weren't usually what sunk me. I'm a tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but type gal. When I start writing, I err on the side of too much information. In all that TMI, the expected answers were usually in there with a whole bunch of extra stuff. If it was a timed test, then I was dinged by the bell, netting me an incomplete. It was the two part True/False questions where one half of the sentence is true and the other is false or multiple choice questions where none of the available answers is correct that stymied me.

    Now that I think about it, a lot of teachers went over the material in class and repeated certain phrases, some wrote an outline on the board of what would be on the test, in addition to the assignments and class discussions. For example, we were told to read Chapter 6, but sometimes what was in the textbook contradicted what was spoon fed to us in class, and my paper would be marked wrong. When I would prove my answer was exactly what was clearly stated in chapter 6, I still got the lower grade because my correct answer wasn't what the other students who hadn't read the assigned material put down wrong.
     
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  8. Fino

    Fino Well-Known Member

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    Those examples must have had prior explanation, such as previous assignments where it was explained and now it's assumed, or a verbal explanation or something. I don't believe people would just know what you didn't without some sort of direction in the past or elsewhere. How would anyone know? Maybe they were a type of question worked on throughout the class and the procedure was expected to be known? Just given straight out, I don't think anyone would know!
     
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  9. Nauti

    Nauti Member

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    I am terrified of exams and opted out of units at university that had exams, due to, now I think about, probably a similar propensity and anxiety around that sort of thing.

    In.highschool I did very badly in exams in classes where I otherwise aced, so yeah, I think I might share a similar difficulty.

    And like the poster who talked about her honesty being, somewhat of a deficit, at times, at university, I've found that too.
     
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  10. Graphin

    Graphin Master procrastinator

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    This does not usually happen in exams for me, but in small assignments and live articipation, there is no way I could ask the teacher or have lots of time to think about it. Those things make about the same chunk of the grade as exams
     
  11. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    I'm a teacher, so I'm going to give an opinion from the other side of the fence, as it were.

    It's clearly the teacher's fault for not making the title of the essay precise enough. It was way too vague. The title should have read: The Functions of City Walls in Medieval Europe. As a teacher I know that all students, not just autistic students, will make mistakes if the question is not precise enough, so I'm very careful to word the title in a way that leaves no doubt what the topic requires. If I give a vague title and the students don't give the answer I'm looking for, then it's my fault and not the students'. I also let the students know exactly what they are going to be tested on without giving the actual questions themselves, and which chapters or their book they need to study.

    As a high school student, one of my reports for English literature does state that I had a 'tendency to misinterpret'. My essays were just long lists - I thought that I was being tested on knowledge and that the more information I gave, the better a grade I would get, but that wasn't the case: I was also being graded on my ability to structure and present an argument, which was absent in my essays, which were just long lists of arguments, points and facts, so I never managed more than a D.

    I was at a job selection for a translation job a few years back, and I was given a task. The wording was: Watch the commercial, write a description of it and translate it. So I did. I wrote a description of the commercial, then translated it - the description, that is, but I was supposed to translate the commercial. Epic Aspie fail.
     
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  12. Bolletje

    Bolletje Potato chip wizard

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    I didn't have trouble with tests, but I did (and do) have trouble with verbal assignments. I have made a habit of asking for clarification. Something along the lines of "I heard and understood the question, but I'm not sure in which direction you want my answer to go". The worst questions, for me, are the ones where someone asks "did you notice anything?" about something that just transpired, be it a text I read, a speech I heard or some other source of information. These questions pretty much short-circuit my brain because there's a myriad of possible answers to that question, and since I don't know what it is I was supposed to have noticed, I get really anxious really fast.
    Luckily I made it through university, so I don't have too many of these situations anymore.
     
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  13. Suzanne

    Suzanne Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I also experienced this in college.

    I thought I enjoyed English and even got obsessed with the topic chosen ie Romeo and Juliette. So, with much enjoyment, I set out to write my essay and when it returned to me, I had a huge red cross and the teacher bearing down on me telling me, that he was very disappointed because he knew I could do better. I was dumbfounded as well and confused.

    He wanted an essay about them, so I wrote that, but apparently he wanted MY perception, but he did not ask for that.

    I tried, but got confused because my perception would not budge from what I had written.

    He was nasty and I grew to dread his classes and started to hate English.

    I got a low mark.
     
  14. Suzanne

    Suzanne Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I am exactly the same.

    My upcoming diagnostic is frightening me. If I notice something, what does that mean? If I don't, what will that say?

    I am told to not worry, therehash is no right or wrong answer. Mmm sure about that?
     
  15. NothingToSeeHere

    NothingToSeeHere Asexuowl V.I.P Member

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    Bit off topic here but useful advise, at university level you should always explain the weaknesses/counter arguments. A school you are expected to show that you can retain and regurgitate knowledge, but at university you are expected to show that you can think, through critical analysis.

    I agree that both of these questions were unclear and I'm not sure how anyone could understand what was expected unless in had been explain verbally beforehand or if there was an established president in class. Although if a question said "in medieval Europe' I would only write about medieval Europe aside for a short introduction, not about Roman walled forts.

    When thinking about exam questions, read them several times and highlight important words. In your first example I would highlight 'medieval Europe' to emphasise the focus of the question, and in the second question highlight 'present' and 'explain' as a reminder to do more than just 'present'.
     
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  16. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    I think you mean, "precedent"? :)

    I agree with your post, and would like to add that organisation and presentation of the main points is important - an essay needs an introduction, main body where the arguments and counterarguments are presented, and a conclusion. In presenting your arguments, you need to keep linking back to the topic. I didn't develop these skills until univeristy, once I grasped it, my grades went up.
     
  17. Graphin

    Graphin Master procrastinator

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    For me now some teachers are actually expecting this, though I am in a class that is pretty much meant for future university
     
  18. Graphin

    Graphin Master procrastinator

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    You seem to act really differently than a lot of teachers, this may actually come from you understanding the actual issue.

    And this is why it depends on the teacher whether I get a perfect or a failing grade on participation
     
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  19. NecroCurator

    NecroCurator Active Member

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    Thanks for all the replies. Some of them actually are quite insightful in a way that might have cleared something. Others are useful in a practical way.

    For example, Bolletje is talking about "short-circuiting" during too open questions. I think this is exactly what I am trying to convey. It's not that I didn't think of the teachers viewpoint. It's that I did think of it, and about a million other viewpoints. As I cannot possibly write everything down, it is always a bit of a guesswork what other people find most interesting. (All of it is interesting damn it!) This is particularly clear in my second example. There we were given an absolute limit of four pages to write things down. As defenses alone could not be done in four pages adequately, I assumed that the exclusion of counter-arguments in the question was intentional. And this is completely missing all the countless arguments that are neither for- or against democracy, but instead try to bypass the question of democracy in one way or another. I can't write all that!

    About the clarity of the questions: Some of the comments here also touch on a topic that I happen to currently work on at uni. Natural languages are inherently imperfect. The fact that we can understand languages in the first place, demands that we share a view of the world. There was a saying by Ludwig Wittgenstein (an autist by the way), that: "If lions could speak, we would not be able to understand what they say"... or something to that point. I think this is similar.

    For example, if we have a logical claim: "Mack owns a blue car", there is nothing in the logical or linguistic structure of the sentence that let us know what the claim is. Is the disputed claim that Mack, not Nicholas owns the car? Are we disagreeing whether or not Mack owns or rents a car? Are we disputing the color of Macks car? Are we maybe uncertain as to what blue machine is owned my Mack? What what?! Only way to infer any meaning from that sentence is, apart from having the same vocabulary and syntax, to imagine the situation in which the other person might ask such a question. Most people can imagine what it is like to be another person in another situation, so language is natural to them. Yet to me, especially in tests, I feel like the lion who does know the vocabulary and the syntax, but misses some crucial human essence that makes understanding possible.

    Am I being at all clear here?
    In any case, here is a comic about Wittgensteins lion: Wittgenstein's Lion
     
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  20. NothingToSeeHere

    NothingToSeeHere Asexuowl V.I.P Member

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    That's good, I've heard good thinks about the German education system. Sadly the British school system focuses so much on spoon feeding students facts to be regurgitated in exams that actually learning how to think critically has to be taught from scratch when they start uni, and a lot of students really struggle with having to take such a different approach to learning.

    Academics who have worked in universities in the USA have told me that even at that level actually thinking is often not encouraged in American unis, which is sad.