Thursday, January 13, 2011

This is not a test...

Well, not to jump on the "remember that test?" train, but does anyone remember that test from last week? Yikes. For the uninitiated followers of our lovely blog experience, we received a test last week that really drove the following point home: tests can be seriously pointless. Actually, to take that one step further, a test is always an imperfect instrument. That is to say, there will ALWAYS be problems with any given test. If not for one student, then definitely for another. Even the wording on written assessments can be tricky. Last week on 92 CITI FM, they had a contest in the morning for Moose tickets. The DJ said that 72.something percent of the time, men controlled the TV remote, and asked if "it was higher or lower". Sorry DJ, I must have misheard you. Is WHAT higher or lower? The actual number? The number you just said? Depending on how you understand the question, the answer could be completely different. As it turns out, this phraseology caused so much confusion that the DJ ended up just giving the tickets away to the caller, rather than carry on.

This brings up the whole idea of "student driven learning". For example, the idea of "student learning projects" is an excellent one in terms of encouraging students to construct their own knowledge, and make meaning about something important and relevant to them. This idea also works well for assessment, as the student has the choice to demonstrate their learning in several ways, and as such is not restricted to an "cookie cutter" testing approach. The more I thought about this point over the last few days, the more I realized that technology can be an excellent tool for providing differentiation, accommodation, modification, adaptation, etc. Computers can read passages aloud, can allow people who are visually impaired a larger keyboard with which to type, and students who had difficulty speaking/handwriting to communicate their ideas just as effectively as their classmates.

If there's one thing we've had drilled into our heads, it's that "one-size-fits-all" is an excellent concept for hats and toques... not so much for teaching kids. A test like the one we experienced provides little or no room for differentiation, accommodation, modification, adaptation, or anything else that students might need in order to appropriately and reasonably display their learning, and operate at their full potential.


  1. After reading your post about differentiated instruction all I could think about was how fortunate we are that we have subject area which allows that to happen so naturally.

    I'm not sure if you're going to be getting a visit from the kids in the FLEX program from Churchill high in Pauline's class, but they did a presentation to our class last week and their whole concept was that they have students in grade 9 and 10 and start the year by showing the students the curriculum that is mandated by the province. Then they let the students brainstorm for each subject area and figure out what kinds of projects could accomplish the different clusters. THEN they try and make a big project out of it!! It's super cool. Mind you, it only includes the 4 main subject areas of Math, Science, English, and Social.
    We got the opportunity to make up our own project and it involved a comic book about an immigrant who came to Canada with his family and had start a business. So builds an organic super market with it's own greenhouse. I would have LOVED to make something like in grade 9 or 10. So cool :) And the students in the program could not stress enough how much they adored coming to school every day. It was so inpirational!

  2. I'm not sure one-size-fits-all works for hats either...