Monday, 30 September 2013

Teaching to the test vs. creativity

Tests and creativity tend not to go in the same sentence.
I read an article on NZHerald website the other day about the test focus our schools have, and if it is the best option for our future generations.
Professor Zhao claims that high test scores do not mean high education system. He argues that schools such as China, who perform well on tests, do not teach children to be independent thinkers and as a result lack creativity. Zhao also points out that the higher the test scores were, the lower the students enjoyment of or confidence in a subject.
So what does this mean for NZ? It was only a couple of years ago that National Standards were introduced, and as a result the volume of testing has increased. This also means that teachers are feeling more pressured and inclined to teach to the tests to ensure their students the best success at achieving.
I've even seen this in my own studies at University. Rather than following the models that we are being taught to teach (as a Post Graduate Primary Teaching student), we are being taught test specific information.Then again, we crave it also. In a recent maths class on how to teach  measurement, particularly volume and area, I heard my cohort repetitively asking, "Is this in the test?" "Will we be tested on this?" "What part of this will be in the test?" We all want to succeed, and if we are measured by a 'test' then that is all that we care about in the learning environment. It makes me quite sad, as I found that the learning focus shifted from 'will this make me a good teacher' to 'how do I pass the test'.
Fear of being wrong shouldn't be what underpins us. If it is, we inhibit our and our students potential. "If you're not prepared to be wrong,you'll never come up with anything original" (Sir Ken Robinson). Look at all the great inventors,entrepreneurs, Einstein, Steve Jobs, I bet they weren't right the first, or even tenth time, but they persevered and learned from errors.  On one of my school observations I saw a Yr 8 teacher write this on the board "If I fail, does it make me a failure." Students were then asked to write for a couple of minutes what they thought about this, following which they shared their ideas with the class. They were able to articulate that failing can be a good thing, from which you grow and learn. Teaching students that failure is real, but that it is finite, not ongoing is important. It builds resilience, perseverance and character. Moreover, it allows creativity, something which without we risk seriously depriving our students.
Part of my thinking comes from the many TED talks I've been listening too, primarily Sir Ken Robinson. and on personalising education, or as I know it 'differentiated learning'

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