We all know that tests and exams intend to assess levels of knowledge or competency within particular subjects. However, understanding what the science says about coercive and fear-based punishment and reward systems, and the varying levels of neurodiversity uncovered as we (the scientists) delve deeper into the study of the brain, the very premise of this type of assessment is flawed, from the word "go." And as with any unsound device, the data is defective and unreliable. But why?
But you ask - If we don't use tests, how can we assess everything we need to "make sure" kids know? I believe that a complete cultural paradigm shift is required. Trusting that learning is absolutely natural and understanding that every person holds a level of brilliance - is the key.
What does that look like for the 5-18-year-old set? It involves non-coercive environments packed with resources and mentors who take the time to know each student as a unique individual. And where they have the freedom to follow their interests and curiosities to wherever they lead.
In the higher education realm, a few institutions no longer use exams and grades. For instance, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA (where both of my children attended) is project-based and uses narrative reports from the instructors at the end of each semester. But yet, it has a reputation of being academically rigorous. My son spent the last year of college writing a 100 page dissertation as his final project.
To change our fundamental cultural ideals about education towards embracing a system without tests or exams seems far-fetched. Nevertheless, I believe it is the only way to achieve authentic educational equity for every individual within our society.
The DRC mission statement articulates this concept clearly. It is our "why." At Deep Root Center (DRC), we believe that all young people deserve a safe, educational environment - where they feel like they are part of a community - and where they are free to explore all the possibilities. Learning can only happen when kids intuitively understand that they are secure, accepted, and trusted to make decisions, make mistakes, and explore all their interests to achieve their ever-evolving aspirations.
Weekly Creative Meditation
And a bonus haiku - inspired by a real-time experience this past week.
If you would like to learn more about Self-Directed Learning generally or DRC specifically, you can peruse our website at your leisure. I recommend watching the videos on the "Home" and "About Us" pages as starting points. DRC has rolling admissions - anyone can join us at anytime of the year. We are here for any child who needs us.
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