Stop Teaching to the Test

Published on: 

Doctors are being pounded to teach to the test. But every patient-student is different and each is smart in their own way.

In Michael Moore’s new movie, “Who Do We Invade Next?” he paid a visit to Finland to find the secret of how they became the No. 1 educational system in the world. See a clip here.

Fundamentally, doctors are teachers (Docere in Latin means to teach). Recently, one the Finnish experts who helped make the system great said he thinks they succeeded was because they did not emphasize BIG DATA.

The expert, Pasi Sahlberg, and a colleague, Jonathan Hasak, recently described an alternative, “small data,” which they defined this way:

“1. It reduces census-based national student assessments to the necessary minimum and transfer saved resources to enhance the quality of formative assessments in schools and teacher education on other alternative assessment methods. Evidence shows that formative and other school-based assessments are much more likely to improve quality of education than conventional standardized tests.

“2. It strengthens collective autonomy of schools by giving teachers more independence from bureaucracy and investing in teamwork in schools. This would enhance social capital that is proved to be critical aspects of building trust within education and enhancing student learning.


“3. It empowers students by involving them in assessing and reflecting their own learning and then incorporating that information into collective human judgment about teaching and learning (supported by national big data). Because there are different ways students can be smart in schools, no one way of measuring student achievement will reveal success. Students’ voices about their own growth may be those tiny clues that can uncover important trends of improving learning.”

Doctors are being pounded to teach to the test. But, as noted, every patient-student is different and each is smart in their own way. Formative assessments (what are you learning while in this course) are more powerful than summative assessments (testing what people retained at the end of the course).

Some have the opinion that teaching to the test is not such a bad idea after all.

Michael Moore went to Finland to face the enemy. He shouldn't have wasted his time. We have met the enemy and he is us.