With all of the fuss about world education ranks and standardized testing these days, many seem to have forgotten the point of assessments– to assess learning. Testing is meant to tell how much the student has been able to absorb, process, and explain what they were taught. The ideal concept is that the teacher and student would get more out of the feedback than the government.
Unfortunately, there are many teachers who see a poor average grade in a unit and use it as a chance to lecture the students for not working hard enough. Some will think, “Well, I guess that section was too hard to grasp. Let’s move on to something else.” There is a race to cover as much as possible before the end of the year (or before the state testing) comes along, and there is no time to emphasize a single section when you school’s funding (and possibly your job) is on the line.
One of the reasons I love the new Common Core (I have many; feel free to ask for more!) is that a lot of that pressure is taken away. In the Montana CC Mathematics Standards, secondary objectives are to be taught over the course of four years, rather than by the end of each year, as the former “benchmarks” were. Students learn at their own pace. Within this, they will learn different concepts at different rates. Your class may fly through the Pythagorean Theorem, then get stuck on the rest of the Trig Identities. Teachers need to me aware of this. We need to plan to change our plans to accommodate our learners.
This last Monday, when my professor went over the class syllabus, he gave us a timeline for when we would cover each concept. The class objectives were on the board, along with how long he predicted each to take. But then he said, “We may spend more, if you guys need it.” The schedule was tentative. This should become more common, as public education (hopefully) improves in the near future. We no longer need industrial workers. We have machines and robots for that, now. What our society needs now is workers who can adapt to difficult situations, alter their strategy when necessary, and self-evaluate their methods. To create those future citizens, we need teachers with those skills. Set plans are safe. Schedules and deadlines let us know what is expected of us. But sometimes, our future students will expect a little fluidity as well.