Sunday, July 08, 2007

Quote on Testing by Carl Rogers

I believe that the testing of the student's achievements in order to see if he meets some criterion held by the teacher, is directly contrary to the implications of therapy for significant learning. --Carl Rogers

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John Wills Lloyd said...

I gotta disagree the sentiment of the venerable Mr. (teehee) Rogers, Silvia.

If educators (including parents) consider something important enough that we plan to teach it, then we ought to want to know whether we have been successful and our students have learned that something. About the only way to ascertain whether something has been learned is to test it. A test does not have to be a pencil-and-paper assessment, of course; the test can be a demonstration of competence.

Consider crossing the street. I see crossing the street as a pretty important competency for young children. I'd even contend that it should be actively and explicitly taught. And, I'd want to know if my students faithfully executed the steps in street-crossing, so I'd test their competence. Obviously, the most appropriate tests would be administered in real-world environments, not by paper quiz, with careful oversight and under various conditions (quiet country roads; city streets; high-speed highways; etc.).

The same thinking applies to decoding in reading, solving for missing multiplicands, reporting the argument of an author, proving a geometrical relationship, and so on.

Essentially, if something's is worth teaching, it's worth testing.

By the way, I think the reverse is true, too. If something is important enough to test, then we ought to teach it.

Silvia said...

Hi John--I believe that he's referring to the formal testing done in schools, and the fact that the child hasn't really had a say in what he/she is learning to begin with. For me, I see it as such an arbitrary thing--what's taught in one school in Virginia isn't taught in another school in NY or TX or WA. What one thing, one fact, is so important that everyone in the US, or everyone in the world, *needs* to know it?

Why do you want to know if it was taught to your satisfaction? To see if your teaching methods are appropriate? To figure out if you want to teach it again? There are many reasons we'd want to know if a child has learned something, but does it have more to do with us or with them? And for how long will they retain the knowledge after the test? Does that matter to the teacher?

So what are the truly important things for a child to learn? And when do they get to decide what they want to learn about? Or even how much of it they want to learn? I think if something's worth *learning*, it's worth learning, but not necessarily that it's worth testing. It's up to the student (adult or child) to decide how much they need to know of a subject. That's the main point for me--who decides what's important enough to teach? If a student is interested in something and determines it's worth learning, they'll learn it if it's at all possible.

I would agree that safety issues are different, but they're not usually taught in a school setting, and I don't "test" my children on safety issues. We talk about them, I demonstrate if appropriate, or have them show me. I would need to know they understand the safety rules, issues, etc, before allowing them to do whatever the thing is. But still, some safety issues are going to be resolved through experimenting by the child--how high can I safely climb?, for example. And there are no guarantees. And adults get hit crossing the street anyway. Testing isn't forever. :)

So, what would you say is important enough to test and teach?

Silvia said...

Gotta add this other quote from Rogers: "If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning."