Assessments. I’m not sure we had these back when I was a kid. I mean, we had them but everyone called them tests.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel the new name (in use in the education system for a couple decades now) more accurately reflects the purpose of these “tests.” As an English major, concise and clear language appeals to me.
However, I suspect that was NOT the reasoning behind the change.
There’s this black hole called test anxiety. Therefore, if we don’t mention tests, the anxiety will be alleviated.
I’ve seen this hungry beast (test anxiety) in action. People forget everything they studied. Draw a blank after reading every question. Nervous fingers click the pen: out, in, out, in, out. Fingernails, erasers, collars become fodder for repetitive chewing.
It’s crazy. Once you finish your education, how often do you face tests? Okay, that will depend on your profession, but those with test phobias aren’t likely to even go there.
As an educator, assessments can be a valuable tool. They assess (thus the name) what a student knows before a unit of study and what they learned after one. Provided they don’t suffer from the dread of examinations.
Because, let’s face it, the name change isn’t fooling teenagers. Maybe the younger kids can be trained away from test anxiety with an array of assessments levied rather than sitting for tests.
Many secondary schools have begun basing grades exclusively on assessment scores. While I understand the mentality behind this ( they shouldn’t pass Algebra if they haven’t learned 60 percent of the objectives), it invites teenagers to fail.
Teenagers are generally opportunists, seeking the easiest way to get where they’re going. Why do you think all the video games have cheat guides and cheat codes? This isn’t a claim that teenagers cheat on test—I mean assessments—but that they will shirk the assignments leading to the assessment because “they don’t count toward the grade.”
Yes, I’ve actually had students tell me they weren’t doing the work I assigned because it wasn’t going to be graded.
“But it prepares you for the assessment, which is your grade.” I’m using a reasonable tone of voice as I say this.
Shrugs. “I know how to do it.”
“Then why not do it. Practice makes perfect. It can only help.”
Sometimes an argument ensues. Other times, the response is another shrug.
As a substitute teacher, what can I do?
“The expectation is that you’ll spend class time working on this.” Yes, I admit, the teacher voice is starting to leak out by this point.
Because the majority of teenagers don’t care about an absent teacher’s expectations. Even if they know you’re going to let the teacher know that they didn’t work on the assignment.
Nine chances out of ten, the student wouldn’t be any more productive for the regular teacher.
Which makes me wonder: what are they learning about following guidelines? Will they have a better work ethic for an employer since they’re working for a paycheck?
Is there a better way to encourage students to apply themselves to the assigned tasks? Many aren’t even concerned about their grades.
All of this came to mind today while a classroom full of freshmen took an assessment in their English/language arts class.
What are your thoughts on tests versus assessments? What should “count” toward high school grades? (Maybe we should do away with them altogether, but then colleges will have to change their admission standards.) What’s your brilliant idea for encouraging students to learn?