Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Meaning of Life Quiz as a Learning Outcomes Measure

Somehow universities survived for centuries without any rigorous attempt to measure "learning outcomes". Fortunately, those days are over! Faculty must now prove to administrators that our students have learned something by taking our classes. And that means rigorous quantitative assessments of learning outcomes, with internal and external validity, test-retest reliability, and other desirable psychometric properties.

The aim of philosophy is to discover the meaning of life. To properly assess whether students have in fact discovered the meaning of life by taking our classes, I propose a new Meaning Of Life Outcome Measure (MOLOM).

[Update Mar 23: Poll results are in!] Please answer the following philosophical questions:

1. Every moment, every breath, every success and every failure is a treasure to be cherished.
(strongly disagree - disagree - neither agree nor disagree - agree - strongly agree)

2. The world is a pointless cesspool of suffering and death.
(strongly disagree - disagree - neither agree nor disagree - agree - strongly agree)

3. There is value in living, either value that we can find if we search for it, or value that we ourselves can create.
(strongly disagree - disagree - neither agree nor disagree - agree - strongly agree)

4. All the uses of this world are weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
(strongly disagree - disagree - neither agree nor disagree - agree - strongly agree)

5. Everything is just atoms bumping in the void, so nothing you do really matters.
(strongly disagree - disagree - neither agree nor disagree - agree - strongly agree)

6. It is better to have strived and struggled than never to have been.
(strongly disagree - disagree - neither agree nor disagree - agree - strongly agree)

7. How confident are you of your answers to the questions above?
(not at all confident - slightly confident - moderately confident - highly confident)

8. What is the meaning of life? (Or if life is meaningless, explain why.)
(fill in the blank)

Alternatively, take the SurveyMonkey version of the MOLOM.

Your Meaningfulness Score:

Score -2 to +2 points for strongly disagree to strongly agree on questions 1, 3, and 6.
Score +2 to -2 points for strongly disagree to strongly agree on questions 2, 4, and 5.

Interpreting your Meaningfulness Score (revised March 23):

-12 to -2: Life is meaningless.
-1 to +1: Meh.
+2 to +12: Life is meaningful.

Recommended Usage as an Outcome Measure:

Administer the test at the beginning of philosophy instruction, then re-administer the test at the end of philosophy instruction.

If a student's Meaningfulness Score rises, this shows that the student has discovered that life has meaning (or at least is not as meaningless as they had previously thought). If a student's Meaningfulness Score declines, this shows that the student has shed their foolish illusions (or at least that they have made progress toward shedding their illusions).

If the student's confidence score rises, this shows that the student has solidified their understanding of the issues. If the student's confidence score declines, this shows that the student has begun to challenge their earlier presuppositions.

If the answer in the text box changes, this shows that the student has come to a new understanding of these fundamental issues.

Also examine the standard deviation of the scores (after first reverse scoring questions 2, 4, and 5). Compare the SD at the beginning of instruction with the SD at the end of instruction. If a student's standard deviation increases, conclude that the student has learned to see nuanced distinctions between these various claims. If a student's standard deviation decreases, conclude that the student has matured toward a more coherent worldview.

The Meaning Of Life Outcome Measure is not yet fully validated, but I am optimistic that the MOLOM will prove to be the rigorously quantitative learning outcomes assessment tool that we need in philosophy.

6 comments:

Natasha Troyka said...

I love this so much. It's hilarious. Thanks for writing it.

Steven Hales said...

Pretty sure I’m going to submit this to the Office of Planning and Assessment as the department’s new self-study tool.

Howard Berman said...

Your test makes a great exit survey at the end of life... or give it at major junctures like marriage and birth of kids etc

speedie said...

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

Unknown said...

Well done! Thank you!

James said...

Meh.