Teaching To The New Test
By Clayton M. Christensen, Michael Horn, Curtis Johnson
All Americans want to educate our children so they have a fair shot at realizing their dreams. But we have very different ideas about how to accomplish that. In our book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, we map out a way to use innovation to disrupt the broken and monolithic U.S. public-classroom model and move toward one that puts the needs of each student at its center.
A powerful tool to help reach this goal is online learning technology, which offers students the ability to learn in ways that match their intelligence types in the places and at the pace they prefer. But with the shift to student-centric learning, assessment—the art and science of testing children to determine what they have learned—can and should change, as well.
In the past, testing has been used to do two jobs. The first has been to determine the extent to which students have mastered a body of material and are ready to progress. The second job is to compare students with one another. Student-centric technology, if it becomes truly personalized, should over time get rid of the need for examinations as we have known them.
The conventional teacher-administered exam can handle the second job, but the first one is more important, and it doesn't do that job well at all. Regardless of whether students have mastered the material in a unit, they all move on. Teachers don't find out what students have learned until an exam is graded, which tends to be some time after the unit or class is already complete. If students haven't mastered all the material but know it well enough to get a passing grade, they still must move on. Even if they fail an exam, the students typically must move on, because moving on is inherent in the model of monolithic instruction. The exam tells teachers and administrators only what percentage of the students has demonstrated mastery of what percentage of the material. The amount of time in which to learn the material is fixed, but the amount of learning varies significantly.