Teachers measure progress by quizzes in a traditional environment. Students are graded and ranked according to test results. But is this the best way? Is this helping or hurting our children?
In my own experience, I found myself cramming for exams many times at school. I would regurgitate all the information I memorized onto the test and promptly forget every single thing I had memorized by the next day. Even though I had straight A’s in elementary and high school, I could not tell you what I learned after taking those tests.I would routinely forget everything right after.
Realizing this, two things strike me. First, I didn’t care much about what I was learning. I never had a chance to choose what I was interested in to study. Second, when memorizing things that fast, it doesn’t become part of you because you’re not learning it in context, but only as a fact to memorize.
In the ’80s and ’90s, the internet wasn’t prominent and memorizing facts was still a valuable asset. However, times have changed. Today, we have Google at our fingertips. We don’t need to memorize facts anymore because we have the internet everywhere. With everyone having the same information today, memorizing doesn’t hold the same prestige and power that it held in the 1800s and 1900s.
Sadly, many students just go through the motions by absorbing the information they are taught without ever actually grappling with it. They also hardly ever had a chance to choose what they want to learn and had projects that had to do with the real world.
Of course, basic core skills such as Reading, Writing, Basic Math, and some Physics are very important. And there is a bit of memorization and learning to understand basic math, etc. But we believe that if you want to deeply understand something, you need to be hands-on with a project that will show you how those facts are relevant in the real world. However, the question is asked: If we do not take tests at Acton Academy how do we measure skills and progress?
A beautiful example of how to measure progress is the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts are one of the four pillars of Acton Academy. Their progress is measured based on mastery. They earn a badge because they have mastered the skill and have shown that they can actually perform this skill. For a cooking badge, they do not need to answer a multiple-choice test on the best method of cooking over a fire. Instead, they have to actually cook a meal over a fire and feed it to their peers and Scout Leader to see if they succeeded. And if not, they try again.
Badge-based mastery, we believe, is one of the best ways to show the progress students have made.
To learn more about Badges, watch this video: Mastery vs Grades