Perhaps, Horace concedes. Tests? They’re clumsy instruments, often riddled with discrimination.
I agree: Tests, or any exhibition of mastery (I prefer that positive term […]), are troublesome mechanisms. but the alternative to them — no basis to describe or assess what school is for — simply is worse. A sensible school would have a variety of means for exhibition — time tests, essays, oral exams, portfolios of work. Yes, these will take hundreds of faculty hours to prepare and monitor. However, I persist, these hours are better so spent than continuing with the known inadequacies of the status quo."
I definitely just had a horrible dream, in which I had exams in all of my classes (wahoo, back in college? high school? again…ack!). I had, of course, not prepared for any of them.
The catch was, in my dream, they all occurred on the first day of class, so I felt like I didn’t even get a chance to prepare. It wasn’t even my fault!
Basically, it was an awful dream. I hate failing and I hate even more the feeling of not being prepared.
This is essentially how I feel about giving Teach For China’s diagnostic tests to students. It’s a test that tests them on what they’re going to learn for the rest of the semester. So, I think I can say that I already know what the results will be.
Why, on the first day of class, are we giving them tests that they’re definitively going to fail?
I’ve been reflecting on this for a while, especially after talking to Fellows at the last PDC.
As teachers, we’re naturally set up to have an undue amount of power and influence over our students. We need to be very careful with what we do with that power. To quote Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” (Ha.)
We need to make sure that our actions in the classroom aren’t an abuse of that power. We shouldn’t manipulate our students or their outside lives. We shouldn’t guilt them into our desired behavior. And the one that worries me about my own classroom — we shouldn’t try to scare them (with consequence ladders or fierce lectures or whatever it is!) into positive behavior.
And I don’t know how possible this can be in an unfair world, but given our power and privilege, I hope we all would try to be as fair as we can be in our classrooms.