Students Are Learners, Not Just Performers Visit a school in the last 2 months of winter and you will see teachers preparing their students to perform as well as they possibly can on the state exams in April and May. Ask teachers why they are so focused on the state exams, and they will tell you that the administration has made student performance on the state exams a top priority. Ask the administrators why student performance on the state exams deserves so much time and energy, and they will tell you that poor student performance on the exams can decrease property values in the community, can mean the replacement-at considerable expense-of an entire curriculum
, can even cost teachers and administrators
their jobs. As you will see in Chapter 15, “Understanding Standardized assessment,” a lot is riding on students’ performance on the state exams. And so teachers guide students through the material they expect to be on the tests; teachers go over and over it in an effort to ensure that every student gets every possible test item correct. The teachers lead the students through seemingly endless drill and practice. (Some teachers-and some students-call it “drill and kill.”) The teachers work very hard, the students work very hard, and the administrators feel the pressure and keep the pressure on. Days and weeks of drill and practice, focused on rote learning that serves only to make students perform better on a test, go against what research tells us about effective learning. By focusing on discrete information or skills, students have few opportunities to draw on their prior knowledge, to learn in authentic settings, to explore and investigate so as to understand new information in meaningful contexts. Research shows us that prior knowledge is critical for student learning. Drilling students to perform can kill learning. We believe educational professionals must be held accountable, but they should be held accountable for student learning, not just test performance. If we are content simply to focus on performance, then let’s continue to devote each winter to test preparation. But if we value our students as learners instead of performers, then the time has come to end the winter of our discontent. And we should do it now. 1) What do you think? Does the authors’ position accord with your own experience? That is, did you feel as if you were learning material solely for the purpose of answering questions correctly on a state-mandated test and not for any future meaningful use? If so, how can you prepare your students for these exams and still make the learning experience relevant to their lives? (3 points) 2) Preparing students for state-mandated assessments is unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to involve just rote memorization. What instructional techniques can be used to help students master state learning standards and at the same time make learning interesting and meaningful? (3 points) 3) If you believe that students must memorize certain pieces of information, what mnemonic techniques would you teach them to use? Why these techniques? (3 points) APA formatting- 1 point
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