Is Test-Based Learning On The Way Out?
COVID-19 hasn’t just caused a digital transformation around the world, but it has also changed the educational environment. The quick change to home-schooling has been the main trend that has been broadcasted. But something that has gone a bit more under the radar is the change to assessments.
Test Results Not Required
Harvard University were the first to announce that they would allow students to apply for admission without requiring SAT or ACT test results. Students are still able to submit test results of self-report scores, but it won’t be a requirement. They won’t be at a disadvantage if they don’t choose to do so. The university is encouraging students who will be starting in 2026 to send materials they believe would highlight their accomplishments in secondary school.
This huge shift in the way that such a high profile university is accepting applicants is set to bring about more big changes in the world of education. By simplifying the application process, students will be under less pressure to perform well during exams. It will also help to reduce the social inequality that is present within the education system currently.
Change In Curriculum Focus
The announcement from Harvard University was followed several months later by a campaign by Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell who wrote to the UK government. This letter criticised the curriculum’s focus on testing grammar, spelling and punctuation; whereas she believes it should be more focused on reading and writing as opposed to the technical aspects.
Interestingly, she also concluded that exams can not only be very stressful for children, but also demoralising. All those hours spent studying, to get into the exam hall and be overcome with nerves and forget everything. By making children feel like they are failing at such an early stage of their education can lead to much wider behaviour problems further down the line in later years.
Implications Of Failure
Studies have shown that test-based learning favours privileged children. They also favour those who are able to access additional tutoring outside of the normal curriculum. This means extra time can be dedicated to help with any learning difficulties or challenging subjects; putting them at an advantage. This unfairly impacts a large proportion of the population who do not have the funding in place to access additional support. This is something the pandemic has brought to the forefront even more.
A study has shown that 60% of private school teachers were able to maintain the same pace of learning during the shift between classroom and homeschooling, compared to a mere 14% with those from state schools. With a large proportion of the prison population experiencing school expulsions or difficulty learning, it is important to address these issues at an early age. Primary school children need to be taught that failure is not the ‘be all and end all’. They need to turn it into a more positive outlook instead.
We have touched on the technology aspect a bit already. But it really is important when it comes to children’s development. It gives them an active role in their own learning. When the fun elements of learning are removed from education, children find learning much harder.
This is why it is important to create experiences that children are familiar with, but virtually. Lots of different apps, games and technologies are being used to create real-time communication, helping to engage the children.
The pandemic has definitely changed the way the education system works, and is making people rethink the ‘normal’ way of learning. It will be interesting to see whether test-based learning completely fades out of the curriculum. Or, whether it will still be used to assess children on how much they have learnt.