Nonstandardized testing

So, I think most people who know me know that I hate organized education with a passion.

The part I hate most is the grades – measuring people and telling them they’re not good enough – but I also hate the curriculum (look, just let them learn about whatever they want whenever they want. You’ll be shocked at how good the results are!) and the lack of certain very obvious subject matters in the curriculum (if you must have a set list of things for them to learn, learning how to learn should be first, followed by learning cognitive distortions and tools like nonviolent communication, followed by learning about common human failings such as the milgram effect).

Another part I hate – no big surprise – is standardized testing. I do have a suggestion for something we could do instead.

Non-standardized testing.

Basically, the idea would be to come up with challenges – such as, here’s a microcontroller kit, get it to control this robot to push this ball into this goal, here’s a 3d printer, get it to print out something you like – here’s a movie camera, shoot a movie as a class – here’s some musical instruments, record a album – here’s a mcdonalds, run it for a day without losing money.. here’s a patch of dirt, can you raise a edible crop? .. one can imagine all sorts of real-world challenges that would make great ‘are you a adaptable human being?’ tests.

It would be hard to give things a numerical score, for sure, but you would undoubtedly find out if the kids were learning how to work together in teams, how to learn new things, how to tackle unexpected challenges – in other words, whether they’re learning the types of skills that really matter once you get out in the world.

Since standardized tests are supposed to be used to find out if the school is passing or failing, I think the unstandardized ones would do just as well. And they’d be a much better use of resources. You definitely get bonus points for a test that the student learns something meaningful from.

As a side note, one of the things that most makes me want to say “You all fail learning forever” is hearing about things like IEPs (for the uninitiated, that is a Individual Education Plan). Look, you will get MUCH better results if you *don’t plan*! Education isn’t something you plan. It’s something you do. Sure, you might want a sketch of a plan, and some data points would help, but a teacher planning education is forgetting that in the most effective and fun education, the student is in the driver’s seat.

One Response to “Nonstandardized testing”

  1. Alderin Says:

    I don’t know if you remember my grades, but I barely passed (every year of school). Meanwhile, I taught myself 6502 Assembly and wrote a graphics editor with it on my Apple][e. I taught myself Pascal in two weeks, but it wasn’t powerful enough, so I taught myself C. In C, I started including pointers to functions in my structs to make it easier to keep related functions with related data, then C++ came out… and school ended near that time for me.

    I slept through every math class I ever had, and usually got B’s or A’s on tests. I nearly failed the classes though because I refused to do the useless tedious busywork “homework” they assigned, I had better things to do.

    I wish there were classes on how to learn and how to avoid cognitive traps. Read for some good fiction laced with good cognitive logic.

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