Learning Interference

11 10 2007


“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” ~Albert Einstein


I have a love/hate relationship with testing in general. If I had it my way, my students would only be responsible for turning in a portfolio of work a couple times a year. Of course, I say this now, but really it would be a pain in the ass to grade. Every test I make leaves me conflicted. While I am beginning to get to where I can make up a test that is perhaps less conflicting, it is still none-the-less conflicting.

Here’s what gets me: GRADES! They’re absolute bull. I never realized how completely arbitrary grades are until I became a teacher. Now I don’t feel so bad about my own grades in high school or my GPA in college (which was sub-par at best). First off, most multiple choice tests are not very accurate measures of a child’s intelligence because they are 100% recall. If you want to figure out if the students actually learned anything, they really have to WRITE! Here’s where we get into some hairy situations–it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it takes a lot longer to assess/evaluate writing than it does to run a scan tron through a machine. And if teachers are anything, they’re pressed for time…

So I compromised. My kids are taking a test that’s 70% multiple choice and 30% essay. I know of a few veteran teachers who can grade their students’ writing with ease… I am not one of those teachers. Yet.

This class period has just finished their test. Out of 24 students, 6 are sleeping (which is fine, I just told them not to talk), 15 are reading, and 3 are writing (short stories and poems). Which is a better measurement of my students’ achievements so far this year? That they “pass” a multiple choice test, or that they choose to read on their own time?




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