Learn To Learn

491. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Dr. Alan shared his notes from a lecture on education given by Daphne Koller, professor of computer science at Stanford University. This phrase jumped out at me:

Testing is a learning tool, not just an assessment tool.

Such a small phrase to be sure but it is loaded with sanity in a world of education that has lost its mind, its bearings, and its purpose in a cesspool of testing. This single note gives me hope. It is a small cry from academia to stop the madness.

It sounds so simple: testing is a learning tool. Yes, testing is a tool in service to learning. However, learning should never be in service to testing and yet that is what we’ve created; listen to the national mantra: how do we raise our scores? We’re not asking how do we open minds or how do we support critical thinking or how do we create a citizenry capable of participating in its governance; we want test scores that somehow translate into business acumen. Could the bar be set any lower?

People do nonsensical things when they are panicked and I can only make sense of our Obsessive Compulsive Testing Disorder through a lens of panicked, lost, people. The aim (learning) is in service to the tool (assessment); the tail is wagging the dog and the dog is in hysterics.

Learning has nothing whatsoever to do with testing. Learning has everything to do with experience, with exploration, with “seeing what’s over there.” Learning is about opening a heart and mind to possibility, the pursuit of curiosity. Learning is to take off the shackles and the blinders; it is to, at its best about self-discovery.

It sounds so simple.

Occasionally we need to stop and assess where we are. It’s a good idea when on a journey to pause periodically and get your bearings. Locating yourself is useful (getting lost is also useful though that is a topic for another post). Testing a hypothesis is what science is all about, a contemporary form of call and response. However, the point of the journey is not the assessment; the point of the journey is discovery; the quality and level of engagement with life. Reinforce discovery and a test is useful. Reinforce testing and discovery withers. Compulsive assessment is a sign of fear, starvation, and madness.

Dr. Alan’s notes gave me hope. Perhaps we are nearing the point when we are in too much pain to continue pretending that we can test our way into learning. Maybe an education system designed for the 21st century is closer than we think.

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