And thanks to the tool-provider BranchTrack for making this so easy.
Be the Hacker
During the latter part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, the number of doctors rose dramatically. This despite the fact that doctors did not help their patients, and in many cases, they made things worse. There was a desperate need for doctors that over- whelmed the reality.
That brings us to today’s school-based technique of testing. The vision is to have concentrated moments of pure evaluation, where students are asked to demonstrate what they know.
And we want tests to work so badly. We love the idea of a simple-to-deploy, objective mechanism that can sort, motivate, and diagnose—the equivalent of quality control at a car manufacturing plant looking for defects.
The only problem is that tests do everything wrong.
Tests only test the test taker’s ability to prepare for and take tests. For example, there is no skill worth having that can be measured through a multiple-choice exam.
Worse, tests emphasize exactly the wrong skills. They emphasize the memorization of massive amounts of facts that neurologically have a half-life of about 12 hours. They focus on short-term rewards through cramming to compensate for a failure in long-term development of value. It is no wonder we have financial meltdowns caused by successful students.
We have to swallow a hard pill. The issue is not how do we make tests better? Or how can we have more or different types of tests? Or how do we arrange for more parts of a school program (such as a teacher’s worth) to be based on tests?
The reality is, tests don’t work except as a blunt control-and-motivation mechanism for the classroom, the academic equivalent of MSG or sugar in processed food. In place of schools as testing centers, we have to begin imagining and setting up learning environments that involve no tests at all, that rely on real assessment and the creation of genuine value instead.
A five-year-old girl visits a swimming pool at the beginning of the summer, and is terrified. But with some playful challenges from her father, she works up her nerve to dip her toe in the water. She has entered a new world.
Slowly, she begins playing games on the pool stairs. She imagines the water is the ocean, and she lives in an undersea world, where her father is the king. She begins to splash with other children. In playing, she is learning how this new world works. The pool then becomes a comfortable environment for her and her friends to spend time.
Finally, she begins to deliberately challenge herself. It is not enough to be in the shallow end; she wants to learn to swim to the deep end. With the coaching of her father, she pushes towards the dark and cold, experimenting with strokes, sometimes getting mouthfuls of water. She gets frustrated, and then excited with each new skill. It takes time, and progress is uneven. Two steps forward may be followed by one step back. But by the end of the summer, she has become a competent swimmer, and could swim to safety in many different environments, from other pools to lakes to beaches.