Well… Maybe There is Such a Thing As a Stupid Question.

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.


2 thoughts on “Well… Maybe There is Such a Thing As a Stupid Question.

  1. I guess the balance comes in fighting the good fight or accepting the realities of the day. The idea of testing everyone on the same standards really flies in the face of personalized learning and skills. The idea that there’s some identifiable standard that all 12 year olds should be at, at the same time is a little weird.

    Certainly we should be working to create more quality assessments. The thing is when we discuss common assessments, it still makes it difficult to address individuals classrooms let alone individual students. Yet I’ve always balked at most standardized test scores since they do have to focus on the lowest common denominator and can never account for measuring excellence.

    Take this class. How in the world could i come up with a standardized test for everyone? Count your tweets or blog post? Create a standard rubric for blogging? What pleases me most is watching each student learn out loud and determine their own direction using a variety of tools and spaces.

    The best possible measure for me would be to ask you 5 years from now what difference this class has had on your teaching. Which reminds me, mark your calendar for June 2017. Let’s have a coffee and chat. 😉

  2. Dean,

    I could not agree with you more on how it is VERY weird that we attempt to create a standard that every student who is the same age should, and essentially, needs to be at; and even more oddly, at the same time. This raises questions regarding classrooms grouped by age, and why we even have grades. However, this is a whole other discussion.

    I also agree with your lack of support towards standardized testing. I simply cannot agree with them. I have been exposed to too many indicators reflecting the negative side of standardized testing. I also believe that it is wrong that we use tests to “rank” our students, when really we are just “ranking” our teachers. Any reports or discussions suggesting positive affects for the students, are hiding from the truth. If these tests are the best way that we can think of to hold our teachers accountable in our system, than we truly have a huge problem.

    In consideration of this class, and the use of assessment that we are engaging in, I must thank you. And not simply for the reason that we are active participants in reflecting the learning that each one of us have encountered. But also, I would like to thank you for the reason that it is a step in a positive direction. So often do we hear, “But when the students get to University how will they survive if they have never written a test, or been exposed to standard assessments, etc?” So often do we hear that there is no way out of this system in elementary and high schools because when the students come to University it will always be the same. However, you are proving that this does not always have to be the case. The change has to start somewhere, and this class is a prime example of that.

    Thank you!


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