Saturday, 21 December 2013

When I think of child development…

"Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. Childhood is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace which is right for each individual child"
 - Unknown
“  "If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn"
-    - Ignacio Estrada

I really liked these two quotes because I see a correlation between the two of them. I have discussed the importance of differentiated instruction several times throughout the duration of this course. I truly believe that a system involving standardized testing benefits no one. The quote above explains the pressure put upon children and families to perform a set of tasks rather than demonstrate real learning. Children learn when they enjoy what they are doing, that is why play-based learning driven by student questions, wonderings and motivation often takes learning to a place that wasn't even imaginable. When students are pressured into performing when they are not yet ready they often feel resentment, stress and a dislike for school. We want our students to love learning and to feel empowered when they surpass challenges and find success. The second quote made me think about the many teachers who are stuck in their ways and find it difficult to change their teaching style to meet the needs of all of the children in their lives. It is our job as educator’s to find strategies to motivate and reach our students, it is not their responsibility to bend to our teaching style. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Testing for Intelligence?

Considering a commitment to viewing young children holistically (i.e., a commitment to "the whole child"), what, if anything, do you believe should be measured or assessed? Explain your reasoning.
I honestly found this question really hard to answer. To begin, I know that I do not believe in standardized testing for many reasons. First, I believe that one method of assessment is not a true testament of a child’s abilities. I was always very fortunate in that I perform very well on examinations. My younger sister is probably brighter than me and in high school was always more driven and motivated however, she for one reason or another cannot perform well on exams. Her marks would be stellar all year and then would plummet after writing a final examination. How fair is that? She always did well in school so this didn’t affect her very much but for others it could have a huge impact. As a teacher I am always looking for ways to make my students successful. I get to know my group of learners and then plan activities and lessons accordingly. Assessments are also done this way. My students get ample opportunities to show what they know and what they can do in ways that suit their needs and their learning style. So now if I teach grade 3 and this is the way my students have worked and found success the entire year, now they all have to sit down and show what they know in a rote paper pencil examination? How backwards is this? Students should be seen holistically and in order for this to occur they need to be able to express themselves and what they know in many different ways. In as many ways as it takes so that all can be successful. When I work with others on a task I am thankful that my co-workers all have different skills and talents to offer up. My weaknesses are often times someone else’s strengths and vice versa. I believe that as teacher’s it is our job to help our children learn and to make learning fun and enjoyable so that they are eager and engaged to continue bettering themselves. I have seen with my own eyes the pride they have in their achievements when someone is genuinely rooting them on. They want to impress and please someone they know truly cares about their success. Therefore, I believe it is important to measure how far a student has grown. To take where they are at, celebrate successes and give encouraging next steps. In a perfect world this is what the educational system should be based on- success for all!
In what ways are school-age children assessed in other parts of the world? (Choose a country or region of the world for which you have a personal affinity.)
This week I looked at Japan and the way in which school aged children are assessed in school. The first thing I noted is that in Japan students have standardized testing in Literacy, Numeracy and also in Science. This differs from the Ontario system in that only Literacy and Numeracy are tested in our system. The second difference is that testing is the bulk of education when students reach junior high level at 12 years of age. An article from Japan Today states that: “Unfortunately, this all ends at age 12. Those are the years that exam hell starts and from which students never really recover. The standardized test-based education system of Japan that starts in the junior high school years kills any kind of initiative, creativity and especially thinking outside of the box” (Moderator, 2010). The article explains that it is not only the students of Japan that have a difficult time with this educational system.  It states that the teachers are too. “Many have to take time off work due to stress, while others create a life of drudgery for their pupils. Many Japanese seem to have lost their love for education and learning once they enroll in junior high school” (Moderator, 2010). The Japanese are often deemed as pioneers and even masters when it comes to education. It was really an eye opener to read an article that depicts their system as full of faults and archaic.

What additional ideas, comments, suggestions, examples, and/or concerns related to assessing young children would you like to share with your colleagues?
In Ontario Canada, our students face provincial testing in both literacy and numeracy in Grades 3, 6, and 9. This testing is completed by paper and pencil examinations where only students who have individualized education plans indicating a need for assistive technology can use alternative methods to complete the exams. This infuriates me because students who do not learn in such a way are unsuccessful. We talk about differentiated instruction all year round as teachers. We give our students multi-modal learning tasks and then all of a sudden the students are all given one form of assessment and are expected to succeed. We have established years ago that students learn in different ways, our Ministry of Education funds and mandates teaching to multiple intelligences and then our government makes us assess everyone in a rote, one answer, black and white, archaic testing method. Furthermore, teachers and school boards have begun to “teach to the test” meaning that they now know a formula of what types of questions are asked and they spend all year beating it into their students’ heads. How wrong is this? Is this truly an indication of what our children can do or is just skewed data and a very backwards system?

Moderator, June 16, 2010. Japan and its standardized test-based education system. Japan Today. Retrieved from;