Testing and Student Motivation
A CNN blog post describes a recent set of studies that determined (are you ready for this) that tests may or may not motivate students. While this may seem self-evident, it is tacitly assumed that students naturally WANT to do well on ANY test, especially a test that has “high stakes”. Unsurprisingly, the study concluded:
“Finally, like any motivational tool, assessments have the strongest power to motivate when their goals are not too difficult or too easy and when they align with students’ own personal interests and goals.”
This explains why students who struggle in, say English, can perform very well on their Drivers Education test or, if they aspire to the military, on an ASVAB test. It also explains why students who are behind their age peers AREN’T motivated when they take a “high stakes” assessment like those mandated by NCLB. After all, if the tests are too difficult and have no alignment with the students’ own personal interest and goals, why should they work hard on it?
Studies like these reinforce the notion that IF the purpose of school is to graduate motivated self-actualized learners, accountability assessments should be formative instead of summative and should measure the students academic performance using content that matches their interest. Given the technology we have available today, this is possible. It is our mindset, that “second grade” is inextricably linked with seven or eight year olds who mature at the same rate, that prevents change.