Why flunking exams is a good thing

No, I don’t mean for your final – that’s never a good thing!  But this article from the NY Times explores the idea of an exam helping students actually learn material.

Is it the ultimate “teaching (or learning) to the test,” or is it a way to focus students on information that is important?  An argument could be made both ways, but since students can in no way learn *all* the material in a given subject in one semester or year-long class, then doesn’t it make sense to focus them up front on what you want them to learn?

IMO, this could work if: 1) students are very clear that the up-front test is not something that is graded, and not intended in any way to be something to measure their learning – in today’s high-test environment, this can be a challenge; and 2) the test truly hits on the important points, in a way that does not limit how students learn the information, but simply focuses them for the upcoming learning period.

Is this possible?  Teachers, any input?


2 thoughts on “Why flunking exams is a good thing

  1. Pingback: Highlights from 10/16/14 school board meeting | Andrea Brady's Blog

  2. This is sometimes known as a pretest. We use it in the training world all the time. I have seen teachers use it too. It highlights what the students already know and what they need to learn. This is helpful information for the teacher or trainer and also for the student. The results of the pretest can guide the work of the teacher and the focus of the student through the unit of study. The difference between pretest knowledge and posttest knowledge can be compared to demonstrate real learning and also to reveal weaknesses in the curriculum or delivery. Pretesting is a valuable tool and certainly could be used more often than it is.

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