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Testing as Labelling Harms

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: May 19, 2006
Latest Update: May 19, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Testing as Labelling Harms: Taking Random Questions in Random Moments with Stress

Please read the learning records from Spring 2006. You will find dozens of questions there that we could have used on tests. I chose not to. Why? Because the experience of reviewing and measuring your learning should be feedback, for you, in the quiet of contemplation, so that you will have a reasonable sense of how much you have grasped, to what extent you agree with what you have grasped, and which parts you will need to review of what you have grasped to make it your own, if you choose to make it your own.

Tripping you up is easy if I embrace the knowledge of an entire discipline which you are just beginning to embrace. Probably, once you leave formal education, your career will determine what you need to polish to expertise and what you'll have to leave aside for the mere pleasure of discretionary learning.

When earlier in the semester Michael and Kathleen, as well as others, were arguing that you must take tests because this is a competitive world and that's just the way it is, I bit my tongue for lack of time and too much to cover. Now, we covered so much on the complexity of infrastructure, dominant discourse, and how these interact with the curriculum to produce inequities of all kinds, that I feel ready to write this up for you. But I kept going back to learning records, even though I hope you recognize that all that will ever be turned in to the university because of testing, and a lot of senseless grading done for corporate recruiters too incompetent to make their own judgments of your brilliance, is grades. That makes everything on Learning Records for Spring 2006 irrelevant. I could have just given you a simple test and a grade and the infrastructure would have been happy, unless I gave too many of you A's. God forbid we should have really learned some social skills together.

In Love 1A and No Child Left Behind we are testing one another in every class, in every dialog. We were testing when Brenda and Sabra were angry with "unacceptable" ideas being allowed on the discussion group. We are still testing as Brenda and Sabra return to help us reach out to the Challengers Club and change our community for the better. I don't know about you, but I got enough feedback to overwhelm me. And so, I'm sure did Susan, for we joined as a community, cross country, but with most of the same kinds of issues that divided us when we were divided. Hot clue there???? The issue that is the bug a bear is our willingness to let one with whom we out and out disagree be heard in good faith.

Please read the Learning Records. Don't study them; just read them. No tests, remember? And then let me know if you're having any trouble seeing the learning that took place and the way that learning appears as you read the learning records. I'll go on clarifying the role of feedback as opposed to the role of unjust labeling forever, if need be.

The learning that I see in the Learning Records is what is lost in standardized testing. Yes, you do need to pick up the coded language of your discipline and basic facts from your discipline. But you could do that with a text book and a few good lectures. Not all the coded language of your discipline or all the facts will give you the learning of transform_dom. And the learning of transform_dom is the essence of learning to approach effectively and begin to look for solutions in resolving our differences for purposes of governance.

If we want freedom; if we want democracy; if we want justice; if we mean to respect the physically, emotionally, and mentally challenged as much as we respect every other, then we must learn the skills of illocutionary (getting to know you) and governance (making community decisions that affect us all) discourse.

My mother is right. I could finish your grades faster if I didn't attempt to illustrate all this with the learning records. But giving you a grade does not give you my best assessment of our learning experiences together. So please be patient. And please be sure you check to see that I have your messages, and some idea of what you have learned. Please no incompletes. We've gotten to bureaucratic for that.

love and peace and faith in learning, jeanne

Discussion Questions

  1. What do I mean by taking random questions?

    Consider that in standardized testing some expert, often not your teacher, chooses the questions. You rarely are privy to the relative weight of questions and which ones the test writer will see as important. So, for you, they are randomly chosen.

  2. What do I mean by random moments with stress?

    Consider that your grades depend on the tests which depend on the questions chosen by someone you probably don't know, and your future may depend on all that. Bad set up for anyone trying to assess your skills and abilities under normal working conditions. Also bad situation for learning mutuality and collaboration instead of intense competition, which usually involves greed some where along the way. (Fellman)


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