There are so many nuances to education that sometimes I go for weeks without hearing some particular argument. That was the case with the validity of assessments, until last Tuesday.
Guy: "It seems that the only thing taking a test proves is that the student knows how to take the test."
There's something to that perspective. In many ways, I agree with it, certainly when we're talking about standardized tests, or summative assessments - tests where the point is to prove what you know to someone else. But what about formative assessments, where the point is to prove what you know to yourself? When part of a particular lesson hinges on knowing things that have a correct answer, the student should know and care if they know the answer or not.
Us old folks think of tests as big, stressful, infrequent roadblocks that other people will use to judge us. And to be fair, when I was in school, that's exactly what most tests were. But when I play a video game, a card game, or even watch the clock as I swim laps - I'm testing myself all the time. I love it. It lets me know how I'm doing, whether I'm improving. It gives me goals to set for myself, teaches me to be accountable for my actions. None of these things require anything more than the means to test and the voices in my own head.
When we built assessments into Thumbprint, that was the core user story. Sure, we can funnel this data up to parents, teachers, principals. Sure, you can do old-fashioned testing with them, if and when that's necessary. But the core experience, the indispensable experience, is the one the student has every time they click on an answer - immediate feedback, the chance to gauge themselves, to improve, to try again. Instant, constant, informative, personal feedback. When you can fail without the stigma of a bad report card or being called out by your peers, failure becomes an opportunity to learn. An opportunity to push yourself, to set your own goals, to improve, not because you're being forced to, but because you want yourself to be better. Maybe it's me, but those are properties that every successful adult I've ever met possess.
So, yeah, let's do assessments, but let's do them right.