assessment-stress-001

Examinations should never test ability or capacity. It is a fool who believes that putting a human being into a high stress, anxiety rich space, where memory recall is tested – based on the ability to regurgitate data – will generate a rating that defines one’s ability, cleverness or worth.

After 200 schools days, every child at Sun Valley Primary has a complete profile. We know their strengths and their growth areas. We have observed them collaborating in different environments, participating in problem-solving and decision-making activities. We have taught them how to cope under pressure and then placed them in situations to see how they perform and given them the feedback.  They have set their goals and in Grade 4-7, they have led parent-teacher interviews to review and re-structure those goals. Where interventions have been necessary, we have worked closely with the parents and together we have walked the journey.

So, as we prepare for Assessment Week – we are not placing our children into a pressure-cooker with threats of …”This is your chance to show us what you can do!” On the contrary, our Assessment Week is designed to achieve two key performance indicators.

ONE: To teach the SURVIVAL SKILL of writing an examination. Yes, our backward education system still relies on Examinations at High School level and for a Bachelor’s degree at Tertiary level. It is not a life skill, because after the age of 22, very few people will ever write another examination in their lives. Assessment Week is designed to teach time-management, anxiety management and time-on-task.

TWO: To give FEEDBACK to our Curriculum Directorate. Twice a year we test our system. We use the results to inform us regarding the quality of teaching and learning in our classes. We draw vital statistical information on student performance, teacher capacity and grade delivery.

Parents must understand this fundamental shift. In a brain-based school we know that there is no value in teaching for the test. The brain is not a computer. You cannot embed data in memory banks because the brain is designed to forget. Rather, our job is to GROW MEMORIES. This requires endless time during the year to create an environment where the brain makes connections, links previous knowledge, feels good about itself, generates the correct neurotransmitters to transport information, and transfer, via a pen or verbally, a response that demonstrates its true capacity. This seldom happens when anxiety is present. Our brains select CORTISOL as the neurotransmitter. This drug shuts down processing in the cortex and forces the brain to move into a survival state.

What must parents do in the week heading into Assessment Week?

  1. Keep the home calm – avoid anxiety-rich spaces, threats of failing and using extrinsic rewards of promised gifts for a specific output.
  2. Maintain a normal programme – sport and afternoon activities must continue as usual.  Avoid the 1900’s approach of …..”You’re not going anywhere because you have to study!” We only did that in the 1900’s because we never had a fMRI where we could watch brain scans of children learning.  Sport, play, movement and exercise is one of the best brain-foods you can find.  In our boys it produces the neurotransmitter called dopamine (the reward drug ..”I can do this!”) and in our girls it produces serotonin (the calming drug …”I am worthy!).
  3. Keep to the study timetable. Do not push your children beyond their limits.  Short periods of study (their age in minutes – yes, by Grade 7 no more than 13 minutes at a time before a break).
  4. Encourage movement while studying.  Allow your child to throw a tennis ball against a wall while revising for an examination, or draw graphics as reminders and then paste them on their walls.  Our brains all learn differently.

Remember – this is a SURVIVAL SKILL, not a life-skill. The life-skills were taught from January. They’ve got it. We know it! Now we simply are teaching your children how to cope with a cohort of teachers and lecturers who haven’t got it (the ability to assess performance by observing students in action in stress-free spaces, based on a pre-determined and shared rubric).

Have yourself a merry, merry Assessment Week – and force your children to play and attend Sport as often as possible!

img_5052

Comments are closed.