Is standardized testing our curse or excuse?

Stepping back a bit from the teaching of entrepreneurship as a subject, we need to be equally or more concerned with developing an entrepreneurial mindset in students.

A great article by Thom Markham  @thommarkham  “The Innovation to Drive Innovation: Scaling Inquiry” does this well, providing a strong rationale for the way our school systems – not just classrooms – need to change in order to incorporate a 21st Century Teaching paradigm.

Our standardized tests have often been our excuse for not diving into Project-Based Learning (PBL) and emphasizing the inquiry mindset. Brain research tells us that if learning is to stick – even facts used in decontextualized standardized text questions – they have to be grounded in something real and relevant.  So, the argument that PBL and inquiry is more needed than ever in our “fake news” environment is made by Thom. I would add that the ability of students to retain and competently apply whatever facts are learned in their future lives is greatly increased in these inquiry-rich environments. They give our students the ability to question and solve problems while simultaneously providing the context for allowing these discrete facts (so beloved by our standardized testing advocates) to ‘stick’.

Are standardized tests really our curse or just our most convenient excuse for not trying to make this shift?

Making this shift happens at the classroom level, and also at the system level. For example, Thom does an excellent job of proposing some macro changes to teacher professional development. Check it out.

I would add one additional item.

Until our curriculum and resource providers embrace this shift, it will continue to an uphill battle.  To help our students get the learning environments we need resource providers to stop seeing themselves as information providers. They too need to re-imagine what students need to eventually “do” with the content they share.  If the only models of learning our curriculum providers can envision is a traditional one, then the materials that they produce reinforce that premise. Educators are faced with the Herculean task of looking at PBL learning outcomes as frosting (that only a few students or teachers will taste) on top of the content recall ‘cake’ espoused by the resources and learning environments our teachers regularly encounter.

If we want problem-solving thinkers who take with them an entrepreneurial mindset, it takes a village.

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