I recently wrote an article for the India Education Diary in which I argue that a holistic, progressive approach to education is preferable to the testing-focused model most educators are familiar with.
When students experience learning in personally meaningful ways – through service projects, by designing solutions to issues in their local communities, and by demonstrating artistic, literary, or musical creativity – their learning not only goes deeper, it helps differentiate them from the thousands of students whose perfect SAT, ACT, or A-level scores show that they may have mastered test-taking skills but indicate nothing about their competency to function in non-academic settings.
Some of my key points:
- Standardized tests are merely hurdles that students must overcome in order to get into universities and earn a degree. In general, standardized tests focus on memorization and regurgitation skills, and it may be argued that these tests don’t translate into real workplace skills.
- Tests and exams are not inherently at fault. They serve as useful benchmarks which ensure students have the foundational elements of basic knowledge and skills. However, they do not generally address the creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking that employers seek and which are necessities of entrepreneurship.
- Alternative assessments such as portfolios, community action, and engagement with genuine audiences throughout the learning process give a more complete picture of students and allow them to highlight the things that make them uniquely qualified for coveted places in universities.
- High-stakes testing imposes a massive mental health toll on students, as evidenced by the wave of suicides that happen when results are released and some students inevitably don’t hit their targets.