Gardner-Medwin, A.R. (2003) Software for Good Thoughts

Workshop Discussion at UCL Conference on Teaching & Learning The Way Forward, March 2004

Computers are seldom a favourite tool to teach thinking skills. But though they don't replace inspirational teaching or analytic debate, they are amazingly good at the basics, thus freeing staff time for such activities. Sceptics of their potential should try 'Aptitudes & Skills' at, recently made available for practice for the Bio-Medical Admissions Test (run by UCLES). This requires very little subject-specific knowledge but could, I fear, make even some of UCL's finest minds blanch at the inadequacy of their thoughts. This session will be an interactive discussion of key issues: testing core knowledge, linking facts and principles into 'understanding', developing critical attitudes (aided by confidence-based marking and the consequent need to check and justify), practice for skills (particularly numeracy), summative assessment, and delivery of feedback about strengths and weaknesses without fear of humiliation. The aim is to disseminate good features of the medical course to the huge range of disciplines where they could be applied - wherever good thoughts, confident knowledge, effective study and efficient assessment are at a premium.