Teaching vs Training?

With the current emphasis on standardized testing and the pressure that educators are under has public schooling become more about training a student how to answer a certain kind of question? Is it to the point where teachers only focus on key words or phrases?

“If you see this, then do this.  But if you see this, then do this.”

I think this is exactly where public education has gone in many places, particularly those areas where demographics skew toward the underprivileged and minorities.

It is no wonder that when students see a multiple choice question they immediately want to yell out an answer, sometimes before even reading the problem. Much like a trained seal balancing a beach ball on his nose, they often fall back to ‘test strategies’ that have been focused on like ‘choose the answer that doesn’t look like the others’ (something I’ve actually heard teachers tell students) instead of focusing on critical thinking skills that would lead them to the correct solution.

This training instead of teaching is creating a population that can successfully pass a multiple choice test to meet some nebulous standard, and therefore look like a good candidate for admission to college or like a good job prospect. But, with the number of students that are requiring remedial classes in college (which don’t actually count toward a degree, thus costing both time and money) and employers reporting that students do not have the work ethic or basic problem solving ability, those multiple choice tests don’t seem to be predictive of short or long term success.

As a profession, we must return to teaching our kids how to think critically and creatively. but until society stops holding educators accountable and instead holds educators responsible, there is little chance of real reform and improvement.

(Note that Merriam-Webster defines accountable as ‘required to explain actions or decisions to someone; required to be responsible for something’ and responsible as ‘having the job or duty of dealing with or taking care of something or someone; able to be trusted to do what is right or to do the things that are expected or required; involving important duties, decisions, etc., that you are trusted to do’.  A subtle but wildly important difference.)

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One comment

  1. I agree with this wholeheartedly. There is a time that I felt, as a student, that I was just mastering the tests I was taking rather than the subjects they were supposed to be testing me on. Although taking short answer tests now in college, at least I really did learn; Despite the drawbacks of multiple-choice testing I feel like I can still see where I’m at in regards to grasping a certain concept based on whether I got an answer right or wrong by meditating on the question that was being asked without looking at the answers to see if I can figure out what I did wrong.

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