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Improving Tertiary Learning

David Watkins

Tertiary education should give students (1) the general ability to think critically and independently and, (2) competencies in at least one specialised discipline. Unfortunately, if tertiary education does have a beneficial impact on intellectual growth there is not much convincing evidence of it. A fundamental problem for teachers and researchers alike is what criteria should be used to judge such
growth. The criteria most popular in America have been standardised cognitive tests, such as those developed by the American College Testing Program (ACT), and the grades awarded to students. Unfortunately the very people who give grades don't believe in them: both American and Australian lecturers believe that course grades are often not a valid indicator of what a student has learnt
from a course. And their students agree with them! Standardised tests such as the ACT have also been shown to be dubious indicators of cognitive learning.

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