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.