Why we need to re-think how we take tests.
I took a total of 4 finals this semester (I was supposed to take a fifth one for my math class but we won’t talk about that right now). Two of my finals were wonderful, I loved taking them, and really felt like I learned something. I am not the biggest fan of tests. Mainly because I don’t think students truly get something out of certain types of tests. Instead of critically thinking, learning, and actually enjoying the subject, we sit at a desk and stressfully try to regurgitate what has been shoved into our heads for months (emphasize on the word stressfully).
Do I think testing students on a subject manner is bad? No, not necessarily- there has to be some kind of way to see if students have been learning throughout the class. However, I do think there are different ways of doing this besides a a usual, formal test; like how a couple of my professors gave finals this semester.
My geology teacher did a test like a normal final. However, he also offered the option of writing a short research paper about a topic covered in class. Sure, there was still a test to be taken. Then there was also an option to write a paper if there were students who did not test well or who were better at focusing on one subject for a final instead of 100 questions about different material. I thought providing these two options was awesome! There are some subjects I can do homework for but just cannot take a test for the life of me (math) so I understand why some people chose the research paper instead of taking a test.
This class was weird. Looking back it made sense. But, while the class was going on- it was weird. My teacher had an amazing, although unusual, teaching style to talk about different view points. Every time we covered a different world view, he would adopt a character who had that world view. One week, he portrayed the world views of a Catholic Christian and the next week he was an Agnostic Naturalist. He played these different characters so well, I still have no idea what his actual world view is. He decided to give us a take home final. You read that right. He posted a 15 question final online and we had to answer it, give examples of each world view, and then come to class where he would go over it with us and give us a bonus question. Sure, people could have just google-ed the answers and received a perfect score. Honestly though, I don’t think that was the point. What the best part was being in class going over our answers with 45 other people. Everyone was giving their examples and discussing why that made sense to them and why they felt like it was important. Everyone was sharing their world views and because we were correcting a test, we were open minded to everyone else’s ideas and what they were sharing.
While I understand that we need to have some way to make sure students have learned, I do not understand why we have to test people the exact same way. Everyone is different. Everyone has different learning styles and testing abilities. So why not try to think outside the box and help students to truly learn? School should not be about stressing out over a test that is worth half your grade. It should be about enjoying the learning process.