Assume you have one hour to prepare to teach a forty-five minute class on any subject you wish. You have no materials available and a budget of ten dollars for any resources and supplies needed. Would you:
a) Find a useful and short article, story, or graphic on the topic for students to read (ten minutes;about five dollars to copy)
Question and discuss with students relevant points (twenty to thirty minutes depending on students; no cost)
Assess understanding by having students write a short response to an open-ended question (five to fifteen minutes; a few dollars for paper and pencils for students)
b) Provide direct instructions to students and answer questions (fifteen to twenty minutes; no cost)
Assign a project or problem for students to work on together with your assistance and/or direction (fifteen to twenty minutes; ten dollars for as many supplies as it will buy)
Give each group one to three minutes to share how they approached the problem (five to fifteen minutes; no cost)
c) Lecture on the topic giving students a quarter each time they add a meaningful comment or question to the talk. (forty-five minutes; zero to ten dollars)
d) Spend time in conversation with students, getting to know them and informally assessing how much they know. (ten to fifteen minutes; no cost)
Ask open ended questions on the topic that allow relevant points to be discussed.(fifteen to twenty minutes; no cost)
Give a short assessment using multiple choice, fill-in the blank, or short answer responses. (ten to fifteen minutes; four or five dollars for copying and pencils.
e) Prepare by creating forty or fifty multiple choice questions on a topic before class.
Briefly teach students the main points of the topic. (five to ten minutes)
Have students spend the rest of class taking the test. (thirty-five to forty minutes; eight to ten dollars to copy the test for the entire class and pencils to answer)
There is no single right answer, but at least one obviously wrong answer. All teachers and schools have limited time and limited resources; both are shrinking. Class requirements are increasing and budgets are not growing. Testing and teaching both play a role in education, but one occurs at the expense of the other in our current environment. Most people would choose a balanced approach above. Instruction paired with reasonable assessment. But when the dollars and time get tight, assessment can't take the place of instruction.
As time and money becomes more scarce in public education, the amount of time and money required for testing continues to grow. Without increasing the time or money available to schools, the cost is quality instruction. If you spend all of your time and money on testing, nothing is left for teaching.
We haven't gotten to choice "E" yet, but we're certainly heading in that direction.
Can we change course before it's too late?