Sunday, January 07, 2007

For many of us, there seems to be a serious disconnect between what we learn in school and how we live our lives once we leave school behind. We often tell ourselves that we'll never find a use for calculus or chemistry after our big exam so, subsequently, all our lessons are selectively shelved under the category of "Childhood Trauma" in the filing cabinet of our psyches, forever sealed shut with crime scene tape.

This grim, self-induced amnesia is hardly a surprising reaction, considering that the final exam is the furthest target we aim our learning towards. So we cram it all in as quickly as possible, spew it in the greatest possible quantity all over the exam paper, then mistake the emptiness we feel afterwards for freedom. No doubt our exam scores will be brilliant, but if we can't make the transition from learning to life, can we say we've learnt anything at all?

The Yanks have been thinking about this problem. The states of NH and RI are going to pioneer individualized assessments and adjust the weightage of graduation criteria so that students can demonstrate useable skills in their subject mastery, as opposed to just having memorized the right answers. Sound exciting? Details here.

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