If the ‘learner is at the center’ then shouldn’t all tests already be for learning?

Why not require all her tests to aid her learning?

Former ETS colleague Kate MIllet published an intriguing article recently here that pointed me towards the Big Education report where I read this sentence: “When the learner is at the centre, it is their strengths and needs, passions and interests that become the focus for transformation, wherever that learner comes from and whatever system they are in.”


Who thinks our current bureaucracies take that position?

Kate wrote in her piece that, “We need to move beyond high-stakes, summative tests, and focus instead on supporting learner-centred, competency-based, and culturally and socially relevant teaching, learning and assessment.”

Yes and yes. But…

How do we answer someone very sharp like Freddie deBoer who argues in this long but critically important post:

We’re swimming in examples of supposedly transformative educational ventures, most prominently in the realm of educational technology. (No coincidentally the site of a lot of profiteering.) Why have vast expenditures devoted to classroom technology so often had disappointing results? Why does randomly distributing computers for children to use at home make so little educational difference?

My point is that we hear of transformation in education so often, but the effects are not evident, are they?

So, here’s the question: are you an optimist or a pessimist when it comes to our ability to transiofrm educaiton? Specifically, do you think that we could ever achieve a state where the educational world IS centered on the learner and as a consequence all tests were for learning?

It’s not a trick question. I’d love to learn from my many generous followers their opinions on this question.

1 thought on “If the ‘learner is at the center’ then shouldn’t all tests already be for learning?

  1. Marianne Talbot

    My answers are ‘an optimist’ and ‘yes’, T.J.! Otherwise I wouldn’t still be doing what I’m doing (learning, teaching, researching…) after all these years. I suspect a little sprinkling of craziness helps – and I am not at all sure that my emphatic, I-feel-it-deep-in-my-belly ‘yes’ to the second question is at all reflecting reality.

    My biggest bugbear in this arena is the lack of substantial (and properly funded over extended periods of time, not just pump-primed) longitudinal studies. We seem to have developed a magpie mentality where the next new shiny thing catches our eye and we’re off before the results are in…

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