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Test Free

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By Brigitte Hawkins, Retired Educator

With the NAPLAN testing over, students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 can feel a little more relaxed about their studies. But is this stressful experience necessary for children? Should we just accept that such nervousness in tests is normal, that it doesn’t have a negative affect on children or even that it benefits them for later tests or exams?

Nervousness does not support learning. Instead, it fuels anxiety, stress and confusion, leading to a drastic misrepresentation of a student’s actual skill level.

Watching Channel 7’s “The Chase” quiz show on May 14, viewers were shocked to see the chaser, Cheryl Toh, an Australian lawyer, television personality and quiz champion, incorrectly answer many questions in the final chase section of the quiz, allowing the 4 contestants to win $33,000. Cheryl Toh was gallant in defeat saying, “Well done!” to the team and she went on to explain that after 2 consecutive incorrect answers she began to feel the nerves take over and, under the pressure of the time ticking, she just couldn’t recover.

How this must definitely ring true for many NAPLAN contestants!!!!!

Certainly, clarifying the meaning of learning – the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill – we can appreciate that learning for each student is a gradual and systematic skill-building journey; furthermore, when the ingredient of personal and meaningful engagement is added, a student’s joy and love of learning is definitely increased. However, when it comes to tasks involving “test preparation” the focus, sadly, is far from the “learning” experience. Add the factor of “time ticking” and you have – even for experienced adults – disaster!

What, therefore, should we do? It seems students must endure these “point-in-time”, “time-ticking” extractions of information. Most educational institutions in Australia and many other countries use them so we can’t just ignore these current methods used that attempt to find out on which “level” students are currently achieving. But are these tests beneficial for children?

Most definitely, “point-in-time”, “time-ticking” tests for children is a gross misrepresentation of the value of learning; and “test preparation tasks” are just more kindle to the fire of unnecessary stress, confusion and disengagement.

We do well to encourage children, every day, in every way, to engage personally and meaningfully in their learning journey which, for these the youngest in our society, must be test free!

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