Monday, January 24, 2011

"To really learn take a test." The Times pushes its testing agenda again.

The New York Times, as part of its ever increasing drum beat for testing, printed an article on its front page called: "To really learn, quit studying and take a test." The article reports a paper published in the journal Science that says that students retained more information after being tested than they retained from studying. In the Times' logic this means, "yea tests!"

They asked various authorities in Cognitive Science to comment and somehow managed to get people (Marcia Linn and Howard Gardner) who I know are anti-testing, to sound as if they were astounded by this study.

Let me make it simple for the Times: Learning is not actually about the retention of information. Of course, in school it is, but that is because school was designed to create mindless factory workers not thinkers. Real learning involves trying things and failing, and learning from one's failures. Real learning involves having a goal and figuring out how to achieve it, and learning from the experience. Real learning is about the modification of behavior and the modification of ideas.

School is about the retention of knowledge. But school is broken. Most students are miserable and could not possibly pass the tests they passed a few years after school is finished.

The New York Times has an agenda. It constantly promotes testing. I have a question for the Times' editors. Did you learn to run a newspaper in school? Or did it takes years of practice? Or does one just take a multiple choice test to become an editor at the Times?