Fewer than 20 years ago, if someone wanted to know what students were learning in a class, that person would ask the teacher. The teacher would then describe the contents and approach of the course, and that would be the end of the conversation.
My, how times have changed. Those of us in education no longer assume that what we teach is identical to what students learn. Tests, quizzes and papers can offer useful data as to what students have learned, but those exams usually take place within days or weeks of the lesson. In other words, we often test what students retain in their short-term memory.
However, there is evidence that suggests that many students do not retain enough of what has been taught to pass an exam on the material three months, six months or one year later. Has a skill or ability truly been learned if students are not able to use that skill one, five or even 10 years later in their careers?
As obvious as it may sound, educators now realize that students are the only ones who can tell us what they learned in courses taken one, two or three years before.