Why do we do it?

I was involved in a very thought-provoking conversation on Twitter recently. The other participants were a primary teacher and someone just starting their third year at University to become a teacher. The primary teacher had just started a new job – nothing unusual in that. However, the new job was in a new country. They had moved from Scotland to England. The student was also based in Scotland and asked how the new job was going.

The reply indicated that it was proving quite hard. The differences were obviously going to be acute at the beginning of such a move. The teacher had been a prominent member of their previous school and was now having to learn to build their place in a new team with different expectations. However, the most striking difference for this teacher was the emphasis on testing!

Remember that the school year has just begun. We are not building up to SATs or exams of any sort. The children have yet to produce any quantity of work. The teacher is not in a ‘SATs Year Group’ (not year 2 or 6) and yet the major difference when asked between the countries was our obsession on testing!

I have only taught in an English school and I suppose you get used to the pressure of being results driven especially if you work in a school with many challenges to progress. I am passionate about children reaching their full potential and understand that you need to assess progress to achieve this. Nevertheless, I felt really sad that our education system had been judged in this way so early on in someone’s career. I felt quite naïve that I had been lulled into thinking testing was a necessary evil but that it was only part of the job! Clearly, for some teachers it IS the job!

Why is it that here in England we think that weighing the pig enough times will make it bigger? Where has this idea come from? How come the other parts of the United Kingdom do it differently?

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  • Hi there… This is very identical to the problem we have in India. It all goes down to measuring in the ability of a child with respect to his/her marks.Assessment is often misunderstood by educational bodies and are translated as tests and more tests. Testing is important but it has become more quantitative rather than qualitative. It’s up to the teachers and parents to instill a change to this system of meaningless study (I wouldn’t call this education).

      

    • Anonymous

      Many thanks for popping in & commenting. Really fascinating to know we are not the only ones! Hope to see you again!

        

  • I hate it. I think there is a massive danger of labelling children as under achieving or even failing at a very early age. We have become obssessed with assessment. have lost sight of the kids and our society is the poorer for it. Teachers are overloaded, they should be teaching, doing the fun stuff which enables children to learn and to enjoy learning. That is what it should be about.

      

  • I hate it. I think there is a massive danger of labelling children as under achieving or even failing at a very early age. We have become obssessed with assessment. have lost sight of the kids and our society is the poorer for it. Teachers are overloaded, they should be teaching, doing the fun stuff which enables children to learn and to enjoy learning. That is what it should be about.

      

  • And why is England the only one of the four countries in the UK which insists on clinging to the SAT security blanket? And don’t get me started on maths testing either… *sigh*

      

  • And why is England the only one of the four countries in the UK which insists on clinging to the SAT security blanket? And don’t get me started on maths testing either… *sigh*

      

  • It’s funny Julia, as today we had another conversation in university about the connection between the child, the teacher and the curriculum. It was suggested that the curriculum leads the teacher. I argued against this idea as I don’t believe a good teacher is led by a curriculum. I believe that a good teacher has the confidence and conviction to lead learning in the direction dictated by the needs of the child and the curriculum is there for guidance rather than as a bible. I do agree that it takes more than confidence and conviction to be able to do this; it also take experience.

    Yes we need to assess learning and keeping a record of this is also very important yet the form of assessment is often what infuriates me. The stories that the media focus upon give the impression that testing is a government tool that is batted about to suit the latest initiative whether that be in a supportive role or to highlight failings. My main arguement is that teachers are the best placed to assess their pupils and they are also the best placed to judge which form this assessment should take. Are government set assessments inclusive? Do they take a holistic view of pupils and the individual progress they have made? The child who performs well may not be being challenged and yet they will be rewarded for their hard work. The child who has overcome many hurdles in their learning and achieved a great deal can have their self esteem dented by a poor score. Carol Dweck speaks of the harmful nature of misguided praise and I think testing can be a perfect example of when this can occur.

    A video of Carol Dweck speaking at the Scottish Learning Festival 2009 can be found here:
    http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/video/c/video_tcm4565678.asp

      

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much for your detailed response & for the link. It is really interesting how systems can be so close but so far away. I totally agree about misguided praise. Children see through insincerity.

        

  • It’s funny Julia, as today we had another conversation in university about the connection between the child, the teacher and the curriculum. It was suggested that the curriculum leads the teacher. I argued against this idea as I don’t believe a good teacher is led by a curriculum. I believe that a good teacher has the confidence and conviction to lead learning in the direction dictated by the needs of the child and the curriculum is there for guidance rather than as a bible. I do agree that it takes more than confidence and conviction to be able to do this; it also take experience.

    Yes we need to assess learning and keeping a record of this is also very important yet the form of assessment is often what infuriates me. The stories that the media focus upon give the impression that testing is a government tool that is batted about to suit the latest initiative whether that be in a supportive role or to highlight failings. My main arguement is that teachers are the best placed to assess their pupils and they are also the best placed to judge which form this assessment should take. Are government set assessments inclusive? Do they take a holistic view of pupils and the individual progress they have made? The child who performs well may not be being challenged and yet they will be rewarded for their hard work. The child who has overcome many hurdles in their learning and achieved a great deal can have their self esteem dented by a poor score. Carol Dweck speaks of the harmful nature of misguided praise and I think testing can be a perfect example of when this can occur.

    A video of Carol Dweck speaking at the Scottish Learning Festival 2009 can be found here:
    http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/video/c/video_tcm4565678.asp

      

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much for your detailed response & for the link. It is really interesting how systems can be so close but so far away. I totally agree about misguided praise. Children see through insincerity.

        

  • The education system here in Florida is sadly becoming soley driven by the state standardized test (FCAT) which is really sad because the results of which dictates how much $$ an individual school, school district and teacher will get. Very sad state of affairs really. “Teach to the test” is a phrase I hear all too much by teacher friends of mine.

      

  • The education system here in Florida is sadly becoming soley driven by the state standardized test (FCAT) which is really sad because the results of which dictates how much $$ an individual school, school district and teacher will get. Very sad state of affairs really. “Teach to the test” is a phrase I hear all too much by teacher friends of mine.

      

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