Test-tastic dilemna

I have struggled all year with the idea of testing as a form of assessment. I’m pedagogically opposed to it, and yet forced to educate in an environment that doesn’t understand the damage testing can do.

All testing is not bad. The Pennsylvania drivers test is a good example of useless testing that now approaches authentic assessment. When I was getting my learner’s permit, there were still only two places you could go to get your license in my area. The test was given by a state trooper at a facility housed in the police barracks. It required the driver to complete a series of driving-related tasks on a closed course: turning on your lights, pulling up to a curb, navigating a serpentine. There was no actual DRIVING involved. The test was changed a few years later. There are a lot more driver’s license centers now, and the closed portion of the course has been limited to two-traffic cones you have to parallel park between. The driver’s test now requires you to drive. On the road. You know, like you will when they give you the license.

The driver’s testing people got smart. Driving through a serpentine of cones doesn’t mean you can confidently and safely make it through a stop sign, or perform any number of other important driving tasks. If I were a better blogger, I’d probably have some research here about how since PA changed their driver’s test, early driver’s got in fewer accidents or something. I don’t, but I’d bet money that there’s a connection.

Learned here, among other places: testing makes you better at taking the test. If the test asks you to perform tasks that you will actually have to perform in the context in which you will have to perform them – it is a good test.

I’m still waiting for the day when someone runs up to me at the grocery store and asks:

Hurry! If turbid is to transparent what is the analogy with dense? is it a)sparse, b) opaque, c) liquid or d) powder.

This is why I hate testing. I am required to give a multiple choice and essay exam at the semester and end of the year. I didn’t give any tests last semester, and my kids performed horribly on my exam. So, I promised them I’d give them a chance to practice for the final. Tomorrow I’m giving a “test” on The Great Gatsby, even though I’m reasonably sure from my other unit assessments that they know what they each individually are going to know about the book. I’m ok with their outcomes. The test isn’t going to tell me anything I don’t already know, but it will give them a chance to practice for the final I have to give them.

Decidedly not a paperless event. I’ve tried online quizzes, with much struggle. But that’s another post.

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