In the article, What if the Secret to Success is Failure?, Paul Tough takes a critical eye to our traditional education system, in particular its emphasis on testing. I have often felt, throughout my own education, that the emphasis on tests was an unfair and ineffective approach to learning. I often felt that I wasn’t actually learning anything; I was simply memorizing facts so that I could regurgitate them for a test. For the most part, I probably forgot those facts immediately after the test was over.
Although this was my experience throughout elementary and high school, my experience with university education has been markedly different. The coursework I’ve completed at SJSU has largely involved very few tests. Instead I’ve completed assignments that required me to think and engage with material. Most of my courses at SJSU have involved active participation. Discussion forums enable students to share their own experiences, relate to each other and the material. This blog is another prime example; the questions provided each week for our reflection posts ask us to take our readings, think about them critically, and respond to them by relating them to our own lives. I feel that this is a much more effective approach. Encouraging students to actively engage with material allows them to connect with it on a deeper level than if they are performing rote memorization. Connecting with material on this level helps us retain information, rather than simply memorizing it for the day of a test.
This type of active learning also follows the ideas discussed in A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, which suggests that true learning is “not about being taught knowledge; it is about absorbing it” (p. 77). Reading the discussion and blog posts from other students is very intriguing because we seem to have such very different responses to the same material. “Different people, when presented with exactly the same information in exactly the same way, will learn different things” (p. 79). With the level of variation in learning styles and the content of what we individually absorb, standardized testing simply seems unfair.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: Createspace.
Tough, P. (2011, September). What if the secret to success is failure. The New York Times.