It still goes on. In most traditional schools, it goes on. We still feel the need to measure human development, progress in the development of a person, by putting a number to it. What are we really measuring? What does it tell us?
As I’ve said to some, “testing only reveals (i) weather you know the answer to the questions being asked and (ii) doesn’t measure understanding (only retention)”. If you are given a geography test it won’t tell us what you know about geography, only if you know the answers we’re looking for on certain questions, and then we won’t know whether any of it means anything to you: just that you recall a data points.
We know that this approach is of little value for all kinds of reasons: students promptly forget what they “learned”, they can’t apply the “knowledge” to unique problems or situations, and plenty of people who succeed either didn’t do well in school or didn’t stay in it very long.
We need to move beyond grading and testing. What is so difficult about just following a student’s progress? You look at their work and see how they’re doing, you talk with them. It helps if the approach engages the learner more than just making them a passive recipient of “information”. This will ensure actual learning – what I call meaning making (if you’re not making meaning for yourself, you’re not learning).
Take away the pressure and stress. Take away the “wrong answer” syndrome. Let’s focus on constructing meaning and knowledge and the exploration and inquiry that is essential in this process, and forget about measuring it every inch of the way. I’m convinced that relentless measuring of people in the process of learning is harmful. Feedback is critical, yes, but that’s different from measuring and grading. Feedback is natural: either you’re being successful at the endeavor or you’re not. When I’m hammering nails I don’t need a final: “oh, 82%, not bad”. I know two nails were bent in the process, etc. What good does it do to put a grade on my work?
Yet, this is just what goes on. Still. And to make matters worse, all of the calls for reform of education center around making better test-takers! We’ve no idea! Higher grades? Really, that’s the goal? A long way to go still… we need every one of you to pitch in here… to change the conversation in education today.