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The Pros and Cons of Testing

© Beverley Paine

There are many arguments against using tests as a form of assessment. Some children become so nervous that they can't perform and don't give a true account of their knowledge or ability. Other children seem to manage with last minute cramming despite not having worked or concentrated during learning activities. Children often forget facts and skills after the test, having learned them simply to pass the test. This makes a mockery of the purpose of learning activity and makes education meaningless. Luckily, giving tests to assess children's progress isn't the only way to evaluate the effectiveness of our learning programs and tests are usually a minor tool in our homeschooling toolkits.

Testing is definitely a legitimate way to check on progress. A test can give the parent valuable information about where the child is in his or her learning, and help show what needs to be concentrated on next. Tests can reveal what learning strategies and activities are most effective - what worked or didn't work to achieve the objectives of the activity. In this way, testing can also assess the effectiveness of the teaching. It's no good continuing to teach using the same approach and methods if the child isn't progressing.

For some children, tests offer a sense of accomplishment as well as give information about what they know and what they may need to review. Some children will be motivated by taking tests, whereas other children find them intimidating and stressful. It's a matter of working with, and not against, each child's learning style.

When a child studiously reviews material and skills covered by preceding learning activities, he or she naturally consolidate and sometimes extend their knowledge and ability. Questions may arise during review that clarifies and illuminates aspects of the subject that may have been overlooked earlier. Tests reveal gaps in understanding and ability, which can be addressed through the use of quality, constructive feedback. In this way the test becomes an effective review.

If we are considering, as our purpose, encouraging our children to learn, building, in a continuous progression, on what they already know and can do, rather than compare their progress against other learners or a 'norm', then testing can be an invaluable teaching aid.

Further reading:

Beverley has written extensively about evaluating and recording home education learning programs. Her Getting Started with Homeschooling includes a chapter with samples taken from her personal records.

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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