The rights and wrongs of testing

Filling the pail

‘Testing’ is a divisive term even if most teachers accept the need for ‘assessment’. I thought it might be worth discussing some of the issues surrounding testing with a view to avoiding the pitfalls.

Testing times

There are a few teachers and educationalists that have funny ideas about assessment. For instance, one fashionable view is that all assessment should be ‘authentic’ and involve the creation of complex projects or presentations. This is actually quite a bad idea for reasons that I will mention later.

However, I suspect that most teachers take a less dogmatic view and see assessment as a part of everyday teaching. And the evidence suggests that it should be. The Testing Effect – now re-branded as ‘retrieval practice’ – is well established. Asking students to recall information and concepts actually enhances learning. So we have a third purpose of assessment to add to those of benchmarking…

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