Avoid Teaching to the Test


By Lokethar

Teaching is the art and science of transferring knowledge, skills and competences to learners aimed at achievement of the learning outcomes expected to be attained at the end of the teaching session/course. The learning outcomes are usually based on the Competency Standards/ Curriculum of the course.
Teaching, as a means of transferring learning, is based on the theories of learning. It hinges primarily on creating a desire to learn (motivation) on the part of the student and the ability of the teacher to “deliver the learning”. This, of course, is guided by the learning content as in the Curriculum.
However, teaching primarily to enable the students to successfully answer the examinations/tests relating to a course of study, particularly for a public examination, is termed “Teaching to the Test.” In doing so the teacher usually selects a range of “Test Items” which are most likely to be asked in the actual examination/test. They then “drill ” the students to answer the exam questions and similar ones (clones) set by the teacher, till the students get it “right”. “Teachers” practise “Teaching to the Test” for their students to score high marks in the examinations.
Many teachers will probably need time to adjust to a more “Teaching to the Curriculum” mode. It might increase the teaching time as well. However, that is the only way the students would really get to “learn” what is prescribed by the Curriculum. At the present time, under the National Education Law, supervision of schools to ensure that teachers “Teach to the Curriculum” would be a function under “Quality Assurance of Education”. But then also, the examination questions would need to be gradually designed to assess more and more, the student’s “Learning to the Curriculum”.
The “Teaching to the Test” practice has transferred to the practical “Skills Testing” area as well. “Drilling” the candidate to do a particular “test-job” over and over again to be able to do it correctly within the time allowed in the practical examination to “perform” the particular “test job” seems to be the aim of some training centres.
If a practical test, is properly designed and assessed,(meaning that the whole process of performing the job is observed and evaluated at every key stage of performance ) it will mean that the candidate possesses the knowledge, skills and competences required for performing “the job“. “Test Jobs” however need to be representative ”samples” of the actual “workplace” jobs as far as possible. In some cases “specific operations” could be assessed as in any standardized operations tests for occupations such as the welding, turning etc. These could also be integrated into “test-jobs” for a more holistic appraisal of the total job performance.
“Drilling” to do a practical job test could be minimized if a range of test jobs for a certain level of competency assessment could be made available to choose from. This is termed a “Job Test Bank”. In many countries it is the usual practice for Practical Test Centres to draw from the “Job Test Bank”, for testing performance of the candidates, so as to set an “unseen” job test, to minimize the practice of “Teaching to the Test”.
However “drilling” is usually resorted to in preparation for “Skills Competitions“ where the “test job” drawings may be provided by the Competition Organizers and is accessible through the Internet.
The National Body responsible for overseeing of the assessment and certification of Competency could perhaps set up a “Job Test Bank” to be accessible by the Accredited Assessment Centres. The test jobs design would of course, be based on the National Occupational Competency Standards at the required level of competence.

With Charity to all
and Malice to none

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