Ignore The Test
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky. He also is the Founding Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens). He has received numerous national awards for his technology leadership work, including recognitions from the cable industry, Phi Delta Kappa, and the National School Boards Association. In Spring 2011 he was a Visiting Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at Dangerously Irrelevant and Mind Dump, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at scottmcleod.net.
It's not "OK" for us to simply abstain from teaching kids to think simply based on the fact that we have to administer a test at the end of the year that's expected to assess something as nebulous as learning.
How about a profound statement? Even if the tests went away tomorrow, very little would change in a lot of classrooms around the country, and teaching kids how to think would still take a back seat to teaching kids what to think. Call me cynical, but I don't see a lot of teachers releasing their herculean grip from subject content in the name of teaching "21st century skills." Why? Our education system has never been about innovation and adaptation; it's been about perpetuation.
How do we reconcile standards and data-driven accountability with the "21st century skills" movement? The first step we need to take is forgetting about the test and teach kids to be curious while asking really, really good questions. I'll never say that the tests are a positive, but I also won't allow for them to be the scapegoat for why kids walk out of school without an ability to ask great questions of the world around them. Evidence? Multiple-choice tests existed in almost every classroom prior to the standardized testing movement, and they will exist long into the future regardless of what metric we use to assess student learning.
We also need to practice some serious introspection and ask ourselves what "21st century skills" are. I hear a lot of people boil "21st century skills" down to simply using technology. That's a pretty myopic and cynical way of looking at the future of human progress. The truth is that "21st century skills" do have to do with adapting to new technologies effectively, but it has much, much more to do with being able to think deeply about topics, solve complex problems, and being capable of synthesizing information to form new solutions. If kids go through school unable to practice these skills, then everything else is for naught.
We kill curiosity in kids the same way that Sir Ken Robinson says we kill creativity. We point our fingers at standardized tests and cry out that they prohibit us from teaching the skills kids need, but we're also not willing to accept that many classrooms wouldn't be that different without them.
We, as educators, simply need to give ourselves a reality check on the messages that we send our kids that stunt their curiosity. I can't tell you how many times I hear this comment and want to cringe:
Anything that we ever need to know in this day and age can be found on the Internet via Google or some other search engine.
Is that really the message we want to be sending kids? Do we want them to walk away from our classrooms believing that every, single question ever asked has been investigated by someone else and answered? What are they to do when they have questions that Google can't answer? How, in those classrooms, do we teach kids to ask the really, good questions and solve the really complex problems that they will experience in their future? How is that statement any different from having kids select "A-E" without even getting a chance to contemplate "F" as the correct answer?
Throughout this post, it may seem as though I've ignored the very question that Scott has asked me to answer. Rest assured that's exactly what I've done. The answer to the question is simple: start constructing lessons and classroom instruction around developing curious kids who inquire about the world around them. Ignore the tests. Until we live in a world where classrooms would look entirely different without the tests, we really have nothing to complain about while they're here.
Aaron Eyler is a high school history teacher in central New Jersey. He has an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Rutgers University and is the writer of "Synthesizing Education" and (more recently) "The Democratic Classroom." For his daily musings and rants, please follow him on twitter via @aaron_eyler.
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"
- A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.
There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.
Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.
- Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
- While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
- Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
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