Day 32 (of 188) happily reading @yongzhaouo & ready for an uncertain education future! #bcedbloggers
Thoughts after reading Yong Zhao’s “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon”
Culture counts for a lot. I remember long ago hearing and thinking about how in China for centuries people would rise to academic and governmental ranks based on their talents as measured by: the test. The Imperial Examination, or keju, would enable those ‘best suited’ for specific jobs to show that they deserved them.
It makes sense in a logical way – blind testing sounds like it avoids favouritism; it lets the ‘work’ speak for itself instead of being “charmed” into letting a less-able person get a position.
But … it doesn’t work. Great in theory, not so much in practice. “Learning” over the centuries was based on what worked before there was great change (aka industrial revolution) creating a workforce that could be used as widgets; one wears out replace with another – and in China the ‘learning’ was focused on: how to do well on ‘the exam’. Creativity? Not needed – there was “a” best answer. Individual thought? Why bother – best thoughts had already been written down… Best candidate gets the job? Sure – except when they didn’t…..as with most “exam oriented learning environments” cheating ruled (and still rules) the day. The only time creativity is used is finding “new” ways to …. cheat! (And there are plenty of examples in the past and present of misuse and dishonesty around ‘high stakes tests’).
Honesty time: I can still recall figuring out ways to “take the test” – to ensure I had some “strategies” to help me recall specific things that I found difficult to remember correctly (french verbs, math formulas to name but a few) and upon reflection, cheating was part of testing. Still is. Whether it was sublet or not, I can’t remember (what a 15 year old boy thinks is subtle is not connected to reality in any way!) Now I can’t be trusted to create a multiple choice test because I would make all the correct answers “C”….
Relying on “test scores” as an ‘only measure’ for university entry (or bursary/scholarship award) by assuming ‘everyone is equal before test scores’ is limiting. It only shows a small snapshot of the learner – and not taking into account what “learning” happened; was a student only focused on ‘how to take a test’ or was it more….? Because I can teach how to write a test – but that isn’t learning much more than how to take on a test, not learn about the subject.
“Exams” search for individuals with a set of homogeneous knowledge and set of skills – they suppress creativity and diversity. Students who do well with ‘exam-focused courses’ do not necessarily succeed in university because beyond the entry-required-% much of the focus turns to the learning and how it is applied – the desire for the core “competencies” as identified by educationists like Tony Wagner (creativity, collaboration, communication, curiosity, critical thinking, community minded, caring, etc) which are MUCH more difficult to identify via a ‘test’.
Essentially Yong Zhao returns me to one of my own personal questions: is it more important to read a sonnet? to interpret a sonnet? or to create a sonnet?
Is it good to have an education system that is ‘one size fits all’ or a scaleable system that sees (and is able to reflect) each learners unique journey? Choices are to be made in the not too distant future. Thank you Yong Zhao – you’ve provided more support why the education environment of the future should resemble less and less of the past!