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T-33: Testing is not Teaching

March 5, 2013

Teaching is not testing, and testing is not teaching. Yet we judge a child’s mastery of skillsImage and content, and a teacher’s performance and ultimate worth, on a handful of questions answered in one tiny window of time. We are told not to miss the forest for the trees, and yet we hyperfocus on one tree and see not the beauty and grandeur of the forest as a whole. Then we bemoan how students in other nations outperform us, when they typically are homogeneous cultures who test only their best and brightest, and we are a diverse plurality of ethnic and cultural backgrounds who test every student, whether they speak English at home, or are bound to a wheelchair, or have to have every word of the test read slowly aloud to them. Remember that, please.

 

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2013 10:53 pm

    This brings to mind a study I heard of two professors conducting with their classes. I can’t for the life of me recall what their names were, but they seemed to have effectively proven that testing doesn’t really work. That was my takeaway, anyway. They tested by trying a variety of testing methods: open book, closed book, group testing (that last turned out to be the most effective means of testing, I think, because it encouraged communication and the transfer ideas from student to student, as opposed to just sitting there and attempting to soak up whatever information was been taught).

    You know what my best teacher has been? Curiosity. While I might disagree with my father, most of the time, the one thing he didn’t discourage in me is curiosity. I would’ve been better off without formal education, I think. At least, better off without the testing portions. I think that’s true for most people. I’m not, have never been, nor have any desire, to be a teacher (teachers seem to get the shaft; I get enough of that walking down the street).

    Insightful posting, sir.

    • March 10, 2013 4:23 pm

      We do get the shaft, but we also get reward, at times. Curiosity is indeed the best teacher, but how do you foster curiosity in an “on-demand” generation? While I’ll never discount the value of school, I know I learned much more on my own because I always wanted to read, research, look things up, find out more. Thank you for the comment and reblog.

  2. March 5, 2013 10:54 pm

    Reblogged this on The Arkside of Thought and commented:
    Agreed.

  3. March 6, 2013 12:15 am

    Not only does this regime put unreasonable stress on the students who never truly get to show the bureaucrats what they can do, but the focus on accountability of teachers depletes and instils frustration and fear in the profession. What teacher, who is measured against this small and meaningless snapshot of, what is a much richer and diverse learning narrative, will feel compelled to stay in the profession when they are likely to undergo something akin to public flogging? The value in education is in the people and the relationships both in and beyond the classroom. Schools are not factories that should be subjected to the same kind of quality control regimens as manufacturing industries. It is no wonder teachers, learners and communities indulge in subversive resistance in the face of this nonsense. How many learners are told to stay home during testing week so as to not skew the results? How many tests make their way mysteriously out of their secure vaults earlier than mandated? How many teachers quietly coach from the sidelines on test day? Vive la revolution!

    • March 10, 2013 4:29 pm

      Amen to that; I couldn’t have said it any better. I think a revolution is coming soon. We don’t tell any students to stay home, though, because if a student is absent and never eventually takes the test, it counts as a zero score in our total and thus hurts worse than even if they did badly on the test. Just show up– it’s the American way ;)

      • March 10, 2013 7:10 pm

        We are about to undergo an inquiry here into the schools that have actively discouraged students to stay home on NAPLAN test days. :) The whole thing is some kind of cosmic joke. Can’t think of a better way for the state government to waste education funding myself.

      • March 10, 2013 7:18 pm

        Well, I know some people’s salaries who are profound wastes of taxpayer’s money, but they shall remain nameless ;)

  4. March 6, 2013 11:04 am

    They are going to read the test aloud to my little one. I agree that testing isn’t the answer. There are other ways to test how bright they are.

    • March 10, 2013 4:30 pm

      Many ways, but numbers are what are easy to crunch, so numbers are what they want.

  5. March 9, 2013 10:15 pm

    I often think that the most valuable lessons I teach have nothing to do with content: respect, the importance of humor, belonging, tolerance, patience, compassion, enthusiasm, persistence . . . you won’t find these in a textbook or on a test.

    • March 10, 2013 4:32 pm

      Very true. I think that is the value of school, ultimately beyond the content. You should learn many skills in school, but compassion, cooperation, and collaboration should be the most important three.

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