Sunday, August 1, 2010

Assessments versus 21st Century Learning

While searching the internet to locate Will Richardson’s “10 Big Shifts” I found a question on his Blog that is on all of our minds as we begin this new school year. How do we address the skills needed to enable our students to pass required assessments and prepare them for the 21st Century? As willing learners, many of our teachers are taking on the challenge by learning new skills and integrating them into our classroom. On Thursday our high school campus will collaborate on project based learning. Our enemy is time. We continue to take our students back, attempting to cram basic knowledge into their "turned off" brains, rather than moving forward with new tools and opportunities to "awaken their brain" and begin a new thinking process. Why do we do this? Fear. Fear of test failure. Fear of looking like failures ourselves. I spent two long weeks this summer cramming information into my brain so that I could pass a test each day. The only thing that got me through this process was the fact that it would all be over in two weeks. Imagine how our students feel each day, of each week, of each month, of each year for twelve years, if all we ask of them is to memorize facts. Facts that will be forgotten in a few days. As a special education teacher, I have always believed that if I could just get my students to think for themselves, they could survive this world. By the tenth grade, many of our students are "turned off" to learning. Learning has no meaning. Children are born inquisitive. Listen to all of the “why” questions of a young child. If we can revive their thinking, we can create 21st century learners. As for the state assessments, anyone who has taught for many years realizes, this too will pass.

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