Education Essays on Shifting Your Assessment to Grow Higher-Level Thinking

In her article, Shifting Your Assessment to Grow Higher—Level Thinking on TeachThought, Stobaugh criticizes the current assessment system of memorization and recommends higher-level thinking strategies for students. The author explains that upon her appointment as Principal in a new school, she analyzed students’ assessments and noticed that almost all were scoring high marks. Looking at the scores of the state assessments, however, the school’s results were lower. She realized that the classroom tests consisted of questions that required them to only recall memorized information. Teachers in many schools create assessment tests on a Remember Level, which is the lowest thinking level on Bloom’s taxonomy. Madaus et al. (as cited in Stobaugh), revealed that only 3% of assessment tests demonstrated high-level conceptual knowledge while only 3% represented the evaluation of higher-level thinking skills. The rest of the tested content involved low-level skills of recalling information and use of formulas to solve routine problems learnt in class (Stobaugh). Schools should abandon the system of memorization and promote higher-level thinking.

As the low-level teacher-designed tests become prevalent, students are misled to think that education is about the cramming power instead of thinking deeply to achieve conceptual understandings of subjects. Since students typically score higher on memorization tests, teachers may overate their capabilities and develop a laid back attitude towards teaching. Consequently, according to Stobaugh students perform poorly in state assessments because they are less trained to think critically. At one incident, the author observed a math teacher in a classroom asking students to complete formula-based questions instead of applying real-life situations. Stobaugh then asked teachers to revise the assessments to focus on real-world applications and higher-level thinking. Subsequent scores of math state assessment revealed 32% improvement. The author emphasizes that in order to prepare students well for state assessments and for career success, classroom lessons and assessments should conceptualize high levels of cognitive complexity. She encourages teachers to use real-world scenarios to help students think critically. This would increase the students’ levels of cognitive complexity, appropriate skills for state assessments, and beyond.

I agree with Stobaugh’s article because the issue of memorization is costing students who graduate and are unable to fit in the outside world because they lack higher-level thinking skills. School systems, particularly those with standardized tests, train students to take tests by memorizing rules and standards. Students have, in turn, adapted to these systems, which has shrunken their cognitive abilities, thus, unable to even solve real-life problems. Learning is achieved when students acquire knowledge through understanding. Our school systems, however, train students to absorb the information and regurgitate during tests. Memorization undermines understanding, which is only achieved through the retention of knowledge. If students acquire the information only to disgorge it on test papers, however, they are more likely to forget the information after the tests. When students perform poorly in the standardized tests, they give up on their future because they feel insufficient. Teachers are failing students because they are supposed to help them to think for themselves, guide them to find solutions, and assist them to become productive members of the society. Memorization undermines every aspect of this goal.

Berkowicz and Myers, in their article, Are You Fostering a Thinking Culture?, mention that teachers think that instructions or classroom questions propel critical thinking. This, according to the authors, is false because critical thinking can only be achieved if students are also allowed to interact with the environment. There are several ways of developing a thinking culture in the classroom. Promoting an engaging and safe environment is important in helping students to contribute in discussions freely, offer responses, or ask questions (Berkowicz and Myers). When students feel safe, they take risks, make mistakes, and explore different concepts, which promote understanding of concepts. Therefore, teachers should remove both actual and perceived barriers in the classroom to allow students to take part in activities freely. Students also need to engage each other freely. Exchanging information and sharing opinions stimulates and challenges critical thinking. Furthermore, since human beings learn by observation due to social influence, teachers can play the role of thinking models by sharing their ideas and “wondering aloud” to explore possibilities with the learners (Berkowicz and Myer). Students will slowly learn the skill of critical thinking, which is essential in academics and beyond. Lastly, teachers should develop a common language of thinking vocabularies to avoid confusing learners (Stobaugh). For instance, learners should know what exactly every teacher means when he/she asks them to “analyze”, “create”, or “evaluate”.

Stobaugh opposes our school systems that focus on training students for tests instead of encouraging higher-level thinking. Teachers set exams that majorly require students to recall textbook lessons while evaluating little cognitive skills. This trend explains why students tend to pass classroom assessments and fail state assessments. There should be a shift in the education system to encourage higher-level thinking. When illustrating concepts, Stobaugh recommends the use of real-world examples that will engage students thinking to find solutions. Other strategies of nurturing a thinking culture in the classroom are the promotion of a comfortable, safe environment, common language use among teachers, and model thinking by teachers. The techniques are important in transforming the classroom from memorization to higher-level thinking.

 

Works Cited

Berkowicz, Jill and Myers, Ann. “Are You Fostering a Thinking Culture?” Education Week. 25 Aug. 2016. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/leadership_360/2016/08/are_you_fostering_a_thinking_culture.html. 15 May 2019.

Stobaugh, Beckie. “Shifting Your Assessments to Grow Higher-Level Thinking”. TeachThought. 20 Feb. 2017. Retrieved from https://wegrowteachers.com/shifting-assessments-grow-higher-level-thinking/. 15 May 2019.