We know that when students are tested in environments similar to those they learn in, that they recall the information better. (This makes us wonder why students are taken out of the classroom and put in a gym or computer lab and expected to recall the material.) We also know that chewing gum or even certain smells can improve test scores. (Anyone starting to see the preposterousness of this?) We work hard to differentiate in the classroom but we don't differentiate our test giving at all — no videos, audio, or anything unique even for those with special needs. (As someone ranted to me yesterday on Twitter (see below).)
@coolcatteacher Special needs students taking the SAME standardized test as everyone else. Why? We differentiate..so should the tests.
— Ruth Hrebinka (@RHrebinka) March 4, 2015
I even found this other research study that shows that distractions don't necessarily hurt learning. In fact, if you're equally distracted when you learn as when you recall, you have better recall. (See the bottom of this post for the research summary. And why are we trying to make everything quiet during testing?)
All of this to say, we are gum chewing, environment manipulating and all kinds of gyrating to do what we can for even a miniscule jump in a test score. Test scores rule the day!!! OK. Does anyone see the insanity of this approach? What about life? What about living? What about nurturing?
Education seems to be frantically pursuing right answers to the wrong questions. There is no doubt, we are asking the wrong questions in education. It doesn't matter if you have right answers.
The right answers to wrong questions never make wrong questions right. For example, the Nazi generals during World War 2 asked for more efficient ways to kill prisoners. They may have gotten some “right” answers to that wrong question but the question itself is repugnant and should never have been asked. Wrong questions are WRONG. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! You're not going to get the right results until you get rid of the WRONG questions! Wrong questions get wrong results NO MATTER WHAT.
What is our central question now in education?
How can we improve test scores?
WRONG! Wrong Question.
One of the right questions is:
How can we improve the lives of our students both now and in the future?
There are other right questions we can be asking:
How can we help students find their strengths?
How can we empower and nurture those strengths?
So many of our problems in education stem from the wrong questions being asked.
It is time for brave educators, parents, and politicians to question the questions.
Summary of New Research on Distractions and Learning
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