Monday, April 03, 2006

Teaching to the Test

Okay, today I want to talk a little about 'Teaching to the Test'. My fellow teachers out there know what I am talking about. For those of you who don't, this type of approach means that the teacher teaches specific information that they know will be on the test. It is a type of guiding that focuses almost purely on teaching the students what they need to know to pass a specific test. It is hugely discouraged at the elementary level where it has been used in the past to influence achievement exams. I find that it tends to focus students on rote learning rather than on understanding larger concepts.

Anyway, I had a request from one of my students telling me that many of their other teachers give them review tests or questions to prepare them for exams. This is not something I am a large beliver in, although I certainly do not fault my peers for using whatever tools they have to reach their students. But it got me thinking, why don't I like this idea? And I think I have figured it out. I don't like this idea because it takes away initiative from the student. Almost all adult education theory postulates that students should largely be allowed to guide their own learning. Plus, I worry that by doing such a large amount of guiding that I am not preparing my students to go onto University, where they are absoluetly not going to get this kind of help.

I did tell the student I would prepare a list of topics that may be on the test, but that they would be responsible for developing their own study plan, which I believe is fair, but is less than what they wanted. So tell me, am I being unreasonable?

This fab picture from Flickr,

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