In December last year I was honoured to be named in Huffington Posts Top 12 Global Education Blogs of 2014. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2015. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “How do you balance preparation for high stakes assessments with teaching and learning in your classroom?” – here is my response:
As I sat down to plan my response to this question I spent hours trying to come up with the perfect response so that educators around the world could solve this common problem. After hours of research, discussions with leaders all over the globe and a reality check, I realised that there is no magic key and no one answer to solve this problem.
I see this all too often – Educators teaching to a test and the desire to get a ‘high mark’ in a standardised test (because apparently this will make me look good). My response outlines just how passionate I am about teaching and learning and how developing real life skills is more critical than wasting time preparing for an assessment.
I am based in Singapore which has a world-renowned education system, ranking 2nd on the PISA 2012 Reading, Maths and Science test. As amazing as that is, I see the negative result of this pressure on students every day. Thankfully, my school focuses on teaching students how to learn, through real-life situations while teaching all content within our curriculum. What we don’t do is focus on ‘cramming’ our students to ‘do well’ in high stakes assessments. And I am proud to say that our students do incredibly well, in fact, they excel in all areas because they love to learn!
I am a HUGE believer in my students bringing their best every day and as an educator my mindset is always teaching for understanding and never teaching to a test. I cover content from day 1 because I teach the curriculum established within my learning establishment. As long as an assessment covers the content and I don’t have to move away from these outcomes to waste time teaching to a test, I have no problem.
If students have been taught the content and how to problem solve, they should not need to ‘prepare’ for a high stakes assessment. In an ideal world, I believe, that content will be covered throughout the year, being taught in creative engaging ways. If the content is taught in a variety of engaging and creative ways, students will not only discover a love of learning but they will know their content without the need to ‘cram’.
I would prefer to see educators teaching inquiry skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and giving students the opportunity to excel with reading and writing. These are relevant skills that relate to living in the world as a member of society. When has ‘being able to take a test’ ever got you a job?
In summary, I believe the focus should be on how to learn and how to apply knowledge in a real world manner, not just preparing for an assessment. Life doesn’t look like a test and, as we all know, there is MUCH more to life after school. Teach your students how to learn and help them develop real life skills!
I am expecting some comments back about this topic, as I believe it is highly controversial. There is so much more to say but with a tight word limit I won’t go any further. However, I encourage you to engage with me on this topic and let me know your thoughts.