A Teacher’s Thoughts on COMPULSORY TESTING
The Socratic method has long been recognised as an important way to promote the getting of wisdom. It is interesting to pause a while amidst the current test fever in Australia to consider the validity of the classical model. There was never anything trite in the vast area of Socrates’ Curriculum. Look at the summary of his questioning style: “The Socratic Questions.”
Image Attribution: Creative Commons
The Socratic Questions
• Why are you saying that?
• What exactly does this mean?
• How does this relate to what we have been talking about?
• What is the nature of …?
• What do we already know about this?
• Can you give me an example?
• Are you saying … or … ?
• Can you rephrase that, please?
In the light of Socratic awareness, so many of our current testing procedures in schools fall short because they are concerned with only a small part of the human story. I am not at all sure it is the right part. A new word has come to mind for these tests: TINTs – Tribal Indoctrination Tests (I expanded the acronym for decorum’s sake).
Such tests control the destinies of the young. Success will define tribal acceptability ranging from satisfactory to heroic. Failure will mean confinement to a lesser life.
This judgement of the tribe is focused excessively on the Cognitive Domain. And because of the cost of other methods, the tools of judgement are dominantly one-off tests.
Some of us who have been on the teaching journey for a considerable time cannot help feeling uneasy about the present day league-table fever. And the cognitive area is only a part of all learning. What about attitudes? What about the Psycho-motor area of mental health? How is the current generation faring in those areas? We have no mass-scale awareness of this. Maybe such concern is irrelevant and all we need from the masses is obedience to ad-talk and polispeak.
How strange it is to divide people the way we do into quartiles of visible success!
The category of failure, or even moderate success, is a harsh one these days to belong to. We teachers have learnt the hard way that the bottom fifty percent are half our future.
Is TEST preparation replacing other (untested) teaching?
Are categories becoming more important than individuals?
Is stress controlled mathematically in the ranking, especially for the very young?
Is lack of skill with examination technique really a valid reason to berate children?
Is forecasting questions by study-guides a similar invalid variable?
Is postcode an accounted-for variable?
What precisely is the effect of school morale on learning?
Are all test conditions rigorously uniform for valid comparison of schools or groups?
Is there a clear distinction between diagnostic tests and attainments tests?
Does the vast cost of universal testing remove funds from urgent remedial teaching?
Are we really testing the right things?
Attribution: Creative Commons: Dan Piraro.
So there you are. Just felt I had to say these things. All those years of sharing learning with my students make you notice things. Things you don’t usually read about in a government’s test reports.
Bye now. R