A Hitch in It: Out with Tests, In with Projects

Long nights of studying, last minute memorization, and endless anxiety.
All of these factors go into the stress of testing.
But, what’s the point?
After twelve years in Birmingham Public Schools, it has become clear to me that the focus of class is mainly test preparation.
While many teachers like to add a life lesson every now and then, strict testing “goals” or “benchmarks” leave little time for more comprehensive assessments.
Going forward, projects should become more of a central focus in all academic classes.
The content of tests is usually mastered by memorization.
Since most of this memorization is done a day or two before the test, its usually extremely short term.
Students lose all that information that they stayed up all night studying within the next day, or even next hour.
As a result, students walk away from classes with a small amount of useful information and few real life skills.
Most tests are high stress and high stakes. If you don’t find the time to study (memorize) in the one or two days before the test, your grade will dramatically suffer.
As a contrast, projects provide students an extended period of time to demonstrate multiple skills.
Skill application, research, public speaking, and time management are all practiced over the course of a successful project and even though the students may not remember every single fact from their textbook, they will have a quality project to take away from the class.
A project-formatted evaluation will also allow students with testing anxiety to escape the pressure of a testing environment.
This could result in students who normally dread school due the countless tests and high pressure environment to get excited about working on a project where they have adequate time to show off their skills.
As we move further and further in to the twenty-first century, we should look at more methods to incorporate project-based learning, to reach a wider range of students.

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