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Can true learning exist with all these tests?

Homepage Forums Brain-Based Learning Q&A Can true learning exist with all these tests?

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    • #71987
      Karan Young, M.Ed.

      What is the true purpose of school? The easy answer is educate but more and more it is to “pass a test.” Teachers are pressured to prepare students for these tests. This article points out that true education is cultivated not merely administered. The article highlights to notion of the teacher becoming the Socratic mentor – an guide on the road to self development for the students. Without an exam, it may be hard to scientifically measure the usefulness of these types of classes. However, many former students report that these type of classes were their most memorable. By being able to think for themselves and problem solve, students actually are more equipped for standardized tests.

      I have the utmost respect for this type of education. Montessori follows this philosophy of self- direction and inquiry. This method can be used for young student as well as those who have been labeled as disadvantaged. Testing may be seen by some to be critical, but I believe it is far more critical to cultivate knowledge and a love of learning. This article highlights this philosophy.

      Article website:

    • #72015

      What an interesting article, Karan. I am mindful of teachers who have their “hands tied” in terms of not having a choice about administering tests. I was in this situation as an adjunct professor this past semester, and was required to give multiple choice type exams…to make the experience more brain friendly I had the students to put the grade at the top of the test (before turning it in) that they thought they had earned. Then once all exams were turned in we immediately went over the answers so that they received feedback. Then we discussed their grade guesses with their actual scores and the answers that they felt were confusing. I believe the students learned from this type of feedback. There are many ways to know if learning has occurred and brain-wise teachers can utilize many tools for their students’ progress!

    • #72303
      Alicia Alvarez-Calderon

      I truly believe that if we stick to good teaching and learning (Brain-based) good results will come on high stakes testing. The problem is that it takes several years of best practices to get students to perform. Administrators and districts have a hard time because of the pressure from the state and sometimes from the community. We need to educate the community so they can help us make changes in the accountability system and be ok with it. Starting next year, Texas is going to adopt a “letter grade rating” for schools. So, according to their performance on the state test, schools will get a letter grade from A to F. Superintendents have expressed their concern but the state is not listening. We will see what happens when this is fully implemented next year.

    • #72634


      We’ve known each other a long time, so I’m going to goad you just a little and challenge this article. I would concur that the Socratic mentor absolutely helps develop good thinking within the classroom, but there are some students who are lost within the woodwork of a class like this. As with all teaching, the success of the strategy is highly reflective of the prowess of the mentor. In the class that has a less-than-skilled mentor, only some students leave miles ahead cognitively.

      If we look at the world of differentiation, we could argue that a Socratic classroom does allow students to follow their path of choice. So, students have some choice and some voice. For the child that struggles to keep up auditorially—no delays, just processes more slowly than other classmates—this method can produce long periods of time when they are on cognitive vacation. The students who are auditory gymnasts thrive while those who need more time, space, and movement to process conversation struggle. They leave the classroom having drowned in a sea of words coming up every now and then to breathe and contribute but mainly living the classroom block inside a bubble of internal attention. Too many words create a vacuum where the only respite is to just quit listening and paying direct attention to the outside world instead to retreat to an expanded internal attention.

      I’m leaning on the 2015 work of Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur, Collaborative Intelligence: Thinking with people who think differently. The book is rather large, but it provides some stimulating thoughts about how unique and different we all are in our thinking. I’m a proponent for the occasional use of Socratic tradition, but I think that we can lose students rather easily if we do not hone the skill and practice of the Socratic mentor.

      Preparing for the test? Well, you know that I’m not all about the test. We mindlessly lose teaching opportunities every day being too concerned about the test. : )

      Do other people agree or disagree? Or, has anyone else picked up Markova and McAuthor’s text? I’d love to hear what you think about it.

    • #80711

      I have seen evidence of good teaching in high stakes testing. I have always thought that good teaching or implementing a brain-based framework in classrooms will take more than a year before you start seeing good results, but a few of our campuses have shown differently. When a strong teacher implements best practices, brain-based learning in the classroom, students respond positively right away. There is a 5th grade teacher in one of our most at-risk schools in our district who has done amazingly well with his students. He was a first year teacher last year and he was able to get more than 90% of his students passing their Math and Reading STAAR tests last year. I am sure he will do even better this year. He is young and very eager to learn and improve his craft. I often visit his classroom because he is one of our bilingual teachers and every time I go in there, I am amazed at his energy and rapport with students. There is no down time in his classroom, students are working and learning all the time. There are many opportunities to process information, to discuss, to write, to work collaboratively and solve problems together. This is a true example of a brain based learning classroom. Students are happy and interested in whatever content they are learning. They are so engaged in the learning they don’t even notice the visitors. He uses movement, music, affirmations, structured conversations, cooperative learning groups, etc. and orchestrates everything like a true pro. It is very impressive to see a brand new teacher being able to juggle everything they have to do nowadays and be able to deliver excellent instruction. It is possible to have excellent teaching and do well on standardized high stakes testing.

    • #82204
      Ricky Chan

      In fact, the major change in Education Reform is to shift the focus from factual knowledge to skills development (e.g. critical and creative thinking skill; collaboration and communication skill, etc.) and cultivate positive attitudes (e.g. striving for accuracy, empathy, persisting, etc.). However, skills and attitudes are really difficult to be assessed in traditional style examination or our world is still not ready to provide formal assessments on students in these two aspects of educational goals. Most of the teachers in Hong Kong are still using 20th century’s teaching (i.e. mainly teachers input with just adding powerpoint slide shows) and assessing style/model to prepare students for 21st century context. Both teachers and students are suffering in recent decades as increasing amount of learners find schooling to be boring, irrelevant and what they are interested is to use IT gadgets to go on the internet, watch Youtube or play with virtual on-line games.

      I agree with the article mentioned: “Recent research into the effects of Socratic-style philosophical dialogue with primary-school children found that it enhanced their performance in both reading and mathematics.” I observed a second grade Mathematics lesson that the teacher didn’t teach students in the conventional way (i.e. giving the rules and patterns at the beginning) to use a “Kilogram Scale” at the very beginning. She just gave each group of students a scale and asked them to measure the weight of 3 objectives. After the measuring experiment, each group needed to write their result on a giant chart posted on the blackboard. Students were all puzzled when they found that most of the results written on the chart for same object were different. Then the teacher asked each group to discuss and come up with at least 3 reasons for that. While each group was presenting, teacher just wrote their ideas on the blackboard without making any criticism. After all ideas were written on blackboard, teacher asked students to criticize the reasonable or unreasonable factors on blackboard. I observed that most of the students were actively putting up their hands to cease the opportunity for contribution in the discussion. Finally, a number of factors were 100% agreed by the students, then the teacher asked them to suggest guidelines for using a Kilogram Scale. That teacher later told me that most of the students could remember the guidelines in the final examination and the result was better than the past that teacher using the direct teaching way.

      During the process of thinking and discussion, some students with less ability or attention deficits might got lost. However, the teacher gave opportunities for students to share with partner or teammates; wrote all groups’ ideas on blackboard, instead of keeping on inviting just a few individuals to share; and also asked students to vote for reasonable factors by showing “tick” or “cross” hand sign. Students were engaged and diversity was all handled by applying many “Brain-compatible strategies”. Our experience in Hong Kong is that “Brain-Based Teaching” is essential for all lessons especially the “Thinking-Based” lessons.

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