Paved with Unintention: One Way We can Stop Perpetuating a Test Culture

I recently came across this strategy on Pinterest, and at first glance, I really liked it. I liked the template wording, particularly for the age group targeted (3rd-8th graders). I also liked the visual appeal.  The strategy is great! However, check out what the teacher wrote under the purpose for learning and the metacognitive indicator. I’m also dubious about the lesson itself. 

The purpose for learning that day –identified by “So that I can”--is, basically, to do well on the Connecticut Mastery Test.
The metacognitive indicator-- indicated by “I’ll know I’ve got it when”-- is the score she receives on this practice exercise.
Finally, while practicing a strategy is certainly laudable, should it be the objective of the lesson? DRP strategies, by the way, are pretty awesome reading strategies. But that’s just it. They are strategies for doing the learning…not the learning itself. 

This is no way to integrate creativity and curiosity, nor is it a way to instill a love for learning.  Nor is it the ONLY way to help students acquire these skills.

One of the biggest arguments I get into with teachers is how to design curriculum that addresses what the students need to know how to do, but does it in a way that instills a greater purpose for the learning.   

The teacher, who created this objective, would probably tell me, “Students need to know  how to use these strategies on the reading passages of the test.” 

Absolutely they need to know these strategies! However, does the use of the strategies have to be the emphasized objective of the lesson for the student? Why? Why can’t it be the means of obtaining a more creative objective? Why can’t the use of strategies be an objective that the teacher has under her belt, but is NOT the focus for the student? 

Most likely, given the reference to an answer sheet, the students are reading a series of passages, probably from a workbook of some sort. The passages will have no rhyme or reason other than to exist for the student to use DRP strategies on. Why not locate and provide several short articles that are based on the current unit of study, whether that’s Sarah, Plain and Tall or Mammals of the Sea? Students can decide which ones they want to read and use the strategies to read them.

The misuse of metacognitive activities, here, is particularly painful. These students begin to perpetuate themselves as data or scores, and they have no idea how they know what they know. Why not find a more simple, authentic way to incorporate metacognition? 

I humbly suggest that teachers can instill a love of learning, while still teaching crucial skills. We need to do everything we can to stop paving the test-culture road. 



Today, I am:  reading and deciding on two articles that will help me with my final project on [whales, the turn of the century lifestyle].

So that I canunderstand more about why [whales, dolphins, the Pioneers] do what they do and figure out why we don’t do the same thing.

I'll know that I've got it when:   I can explain what the article is about to a friend who has read a different article.
 Mindy, together with some of her former students, recently published Transparent Teaching of Adolescents, a discussion of effective teaching strategies for high school. Join the conversation!

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