Characteristics of All Effective Learning Experiences

Have the bubble sheet tests and the endless prep exercises for those tests had a positive impact on student motivation to learn? Not likely. An overemphasis on testing definitely leads to problems. We could easily replace failing instruction in many classrooms with failing, prescriptive and even more boring instruction for the benefit of testing.

One of the characteristics of all effective learning experiences in our lives – including those learning experiences that occur outside the classroom – is that they are memorable. Many teachers do their best to make classroom instruction memorable, but if teachers limit themselves to traditional lectures and bubble sheet test prep activities as their entire instructional tactical arsenal, their efforts will be forgotten. There are many ways to create memorability: authentic assessments with an audience, academic contests, experimental activities, school/workplace collaborations, etc. Effective learning and teaching requires a combination of those strategies.

“How many of us can remember anything meaningful coming from our preparation for and participation in any of the many bubble sheet tests we encountered in our years in school?”
At the same time, we need reliable, believable, numerical measures of student learning. Without these reliable academic measures, children from poverty would almost certainly experience more inequity than they’re already experiencing in our educational system.   Bubble sheet tests with their reliable essays and simple extended problems that include packaged scoring rubrics provide us with data that can help us make decisions about how to proceed with academic improvement efforts. Without these tests and some common standards that guide the test and curriculum development, we’re guaranteed to have a disjointed system of mostly weak standards and tests across the country. And our race to the top will quickly become a race to the bottom.
Anyone who says we don’t need standardized tests is kidding themselves. The question is: How do we marry those two different measurement systems into something that helps our students learn and increases the odds they’ll develop the “soft” less easily measured but very important skills and values.
To buy the solutions-based book “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform” by Lonnie Palmer, click here.

Author: Lonnie Palmer

Author of the solutions-based book "Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform"

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