I recently came across an article by Alfie Kohn, on standardized tests. I was introduced to Kohn’s work in a course at the U of R, and ever since have been intrigued by his compelling discussions on educational issues. If you have never heard any of his discussions, I strongly suggest you do – I have linked to his website above. You can also follow him on twitter!
What first attracted me to this article was its title, “Whoever Said There’s No Such Thing As a Stupid Question, Never Looked Carefully at a Standardized Test.” However, standardized tests is a topic that I will never get sick of discussing, I love to hear all of the varying opinions – they help me create what my own may be. In the article, Kohn questions the type of questions that we use to on tests for our students. He gave an example of math questions that essentially only assessing whether or not the student can follow a rule, not whether or not they are capable of doing math. Commonly, questions such as these – in all subjects, influence the students’ own perceptions as well as the teachers’ perceptions of how well the student understands the concept. However, more often than not this is a misleading perception.
After reading this article I began questioning my own beliefs. As I have previously discussed, I do not agree with standardized tests – for many reasons. However, I am now beginning to think that it is not the concept of standardized tests that I disagree with, but rather the tests that are created themselves. For, maybe it is not the tests as a whole that are the problem, but rather the questions. I find myself wondering if there will ever be a time where teachers and students can free themselves of standardized tests from the government. Therefore, the question then becomes, how can we adapt these tests into positive learning experiences for the students? What kinds of questions could we use that would be beneficial for the students? Moreover what questions could we use that would benefit the teachers, seeing as though standardized tests are really created to benefit the teachers as well as education administrators. If we have to engage in standardized tests, we mine as well create ones that will actually demonstrate student knowledge.