Monday, May 11, 2015

Testing is Not Teaching by Donald H. Graves

The two lines that spoke to the heart of this book were;

The massive amounts of time spent either preparing for tests or taking them have displaced writing and original, long thinking and dulled our students' thinking edge.  Current approaches to assessment are lowering standards, and America is in danger of losing an entire generation of its future citizens whose problems may be even greater than our own.

Stephen M. Seymour


  1. Brigid, Just looking for some directions about the response journaling. What is the format for these? Do we share with you, or keep in a folder until the end of the course? Thank you!

  2. Testing is Not Teaching
    This academic year I have used formal testing on the reading in only two instances, one for my Upper School literature class and just recently for my 7th grade class. I made a commitment this year to have the students relate to the "heart and the emotion" of a text, believing that this would bring us closer to the "form and function" of writing (10).
    The discussions in this book are a welcome reminder that it is the process, the preparation, pre-writing that has facilitated the learning. And the test have been almost secondary to the assessment. For example, in teaching Mrs. Dalloway, the students kept reading/reaction journals based on prompts that I posted on our class blog. These prompts were the foundational work to understanding the elements of form and content: style (Modernism) as it reflects content. Using first person, as indicated in Testing, gave them a personal connection to the ideas. Five paragraphs on character, setting, language, narrative voice, gave them an intimacy with the test that then allowed " objectivity" (29) in composing a formal essay for the test. This process "provided them some topic choice" 29, and so the essay was from them, and they were more invested in the crafting of it. I experienced a similar process with the 6s as they read their first play: writing their responses, writing in the voice of one of the characters, adding a scene, keeping a symbol journal. When they reviewed and took their first test in this class (paragraphs and essay), they were calm and confident with materials and their voices.
    Since we are not bound by the state for testing, parts of this book did not apply to the expectations of our school, but I appreciated the complexity of the problems.
    In closing, this quote stays with me:"We forgot that writing is the making of reading" (2).

    I have never heard this sentiment expressed so clearly, and it reverberated as I read this book.