I overheard this quote from a colleague today while at a workshop on RTI (Response to Intervention). The context was during a discussion we were having in a small group on how we were differentiating instruction for the various levels of students that we have in our classes. This colleague stated her aversion to multiple choice assessments (which I share, for the record), but that we are forced to do some multiple choice activities since that is the major format of the end of year assessments our kids will have to take. She teaches 7th grade reading and writing in a two-hour block each day. As we were discussing this, she noted that, when given a reading passage and allowed an open-ended response, her students will independently come up with a theme of the passage in their own words. But when given a passage that is accompanied by a set of choices for a theme, they completely seize up and have difficulty with the question. So, she has to change the way she teaches how to express a theme of a story not because the student does not understand how to express a theme, but that the student is being hamstrung by the testing instrument. That borders on criminal.
Why does this happen? Because the current culture of one size fits all testing has eradicated any semblance of individuality and have forced hundreds of thousands of individuals into a single box.
This reading/writing teacher also noticed that, in the open response scenario, when students share their ideas with other students, she will see some kids actually erase their response, even though it is just as valid…just worded differently. Even though she corrects that behavior by encouraging different ways to express the same thing, I think the root cause is the same as the seeming inability to answer a multiple choice question.
As I briefly discussed in my previous post “Creativity…what the hell is that”, we (educators, administrators, parents, community members, EVERYBODY), must again begin fostering a willingness to be wrong. This major paradigm shift will involve many facets which I hope to address in later posts including the following:
- Trust between the student and educator that promotes an open exchange of ideas…not a one way street
- Putting off the instant gratification of Googling an answer and embracing a long term process
- Celebrating small steps in moving toward a goal. This is even more important when dealing with kids that need some intervention or remediation
- Stop referring to students as ‘my kids’ but rather as ‘our kids’. Whether you have children of your own or not, public education MUST be a team effort of all involved.
Too many thoughts bouncing around my head right now so going to end this rather abruptly. Hopefully will have some more coherent thoughts over the weekend.