Testing and Learning–Are They The Same?

failure-successMy writing class had another test last week and as usual, I put off grading them until Sunday afternoon. I don’t like tests myself, and I hate the results I see when I have to grade them. Like most other tests, I was disappointed in the outcome. The highest mark was 85. Five students out of fifteen passed. The rest did horribly.  Everything on the test was in their books. There was no surprises. I cautioned them, “this will be on the test,” as we went through the material together. When asked, they say the test was fair, so, why the high rate of failure?

Students say they want to pass, but I think at this point it’s just lip service. Most of them are in class everyday, but somewhere along the line there is a disconnect. They tell me they love coming to class because I’m their favorite teacher, but yet, I get these kinds of results on my “fair” tests. I wish I didn’t have to give tests to measure their progress at all, but there is really no other way to make sure if they are learning what I am teaching.

These adult novice students have a lot of stresses in their lives with family responsibilities and full-time jobs. Many of them are single parents;  all of them have seen hard times or are living them.  I understand that, but right now, their world is too narrow to see the bigger picture. What these students haven’t learned yet is this:  Everyone who wants to improve must sacrifice on many levels.  I think this is where the disconnect is happening. They are too early in the educational process to realize if their desire is to graduate, they must move their education to the top spot in their priorities.

Twenty-five years ago I learned this the hard way, too. In fact, I always share with all of my classes that I have gone through what they are experiencing now. I was an adult student with full-time school, job, and children, but as I got deeper into the educational challenges of my curriculum, I realized I wasn’t super woman who could do it all. I had to make a choice. Did I want a degree bad enough to make changes in my life?  Those changes involved other unwilling participants who were involved in my life, and needless to say, they weren’t happy about what was going on. They had lost their personal slave who did everything for them.

Now I’m on the other side of the hill–teaching. I do my best to reach out to my students and warn them of the upcoming potholes they will deal with on their journey. But like so many other travelers, they want to blaze their own trail and will eventually fall into the hazards I tried to point out.  My biggest dream is they will take away something more than grammar and writing lessons as they go forward.

Only the believers will succeed, and their sacrifices will be many, so any adult student who walks across the stage on graduation night to accept his or her diploma has my love and respect. They deserve it.

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6 thoughts on “Testing and Learning–Are They The Same?

  1. I don’t know about your students, your exams and I for one struggle with grammar. But, with respect to your title, my experience has almost always been that tests are rarely a good measurement of learning. Looking back on my educational experience, I can say for sure that I learned more than what is indicated on my transcripts. Ironically, I did very well on standardized tests, but I generally cruised the middle of the road on classroom exams. I also know people who did very well on exams, who don’t appear to have retained much of what they “learned.” My most recent exam experience, a certification exam, indicated to me that I still know more about the subject than what my raw score would suggest – I did pass though.

    • Believe it or not, I hate giving tests as much as they hate taking them, but the college needs to know if students are absorbing the classroom material so they can have success down the line. I think everyone of the students are much brighter than they prove on their tests.

  2. The best teachers I have ever had are those who pushed me to learn and do more than I thought I could. They told me they saw potential which I wasn’t currently using. They were correct,and I am a better student (and a better person!) today because of them. So keep up the interest in your students; keep telling them the truth. Your students obviously appreciate that even if they aren’t following all your excellent advice.

  3. The test may have been fair, but my question to them is do they really want to learn? Writing a cover letter for a job may change their minds. Life goes on whether you have an education or not, but the education you receive makes your life even better!

    • I wonder the same thing — why are some of them even coming to class when clearly there is little effort exerted. No matter how education is acquired, it is so valuable. A diploma proves you started a goal and completed it. Thanks so much for your comment.

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