Standardize Testing and Free Choice – What is happening?

For my blog post today I have been thinking about many different things. So now that it is time, I am going to proceed with the topic that has mostly entered into my head when thinking about this post – testing. I know that it is not truly a free choice learning topic as testing is often associated with standard school functions, however I want to bring forth that the more experiences you have outside of school should in theory support the success of testing. With that said, I am truly not a fan of standardized testing. Recently I read an article about a teacher who retired in New York after over 20 years of teaching and claimed that he no longer has a profession. This article struck me and made me think of what we do with our research in the free choice learning arena. We try to document various experiences that people have and ponder what meaning it has in their lives. Will this experience help them understand a particular concept better? Will it expand their thinking on a particular area – for example environmental issues – Will the experience of being in a free choice learning setting influence the participant to be more “open” in accepting new experiences such as touching animals in a touch tank or petting zoo? Not sure, and as group we were all looking at various data sets to reflect on these issues.

So how is this related to testing? Well our free choice learning environments are tied to the formal environments in many ways. The participants typically have had some sort of schooling. This helps shape the background knowledge brought forth by the participant. If what I am hearing from my teacher friends is true, as well as the information presented by the recently retired educator, then the experiences that the students are receiving in formal schools are largely focused on standardized testing. UGH! This in my thought process is very limiting. This limits active conversation by the teacher and students, sets an imposed timeline on pre-planned topics presented removing free flow of ideas.

How can we as educators and researcher in the free choice arena use this information when planning and when trying to implement change within the overall educational system? Do we still use any form of testing within our field? How is this testing different from the standardized ones given in the formal setting? Food for thought and hopefully future conversations.