Teaching for the Test: Lazy and Unhelpful

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno


Illustration: Madalyn Drewno

College is about learning. It is about obtaining knowledge and experience to improve life personally and professionally.

A class should enlighten and engage a student and better prepare them for the world ahead. Unfortunately, though, classes are too often just seen as a game with the goal of scoring high on the final exam.

When looking at the Webster’s definition of educate, it says “to teach,” and the definition of teach is “to cause or help (someone) to learn about a subject by giving lessons; to give lessons about (a particular subject) to a person or group.” Nothing in that definition even hints at “to give lessons to allow a student or group to score an adequate grade on a test.”

And yet a large percentage of teaching has become just that.  Students are academically poorer for it and teachers are missing out on firing up the minds and imaginations of their students. Instead, the student is only rewarded for parroting back slivers of knowledge in the form blotting out the right bubbles with their No. 2 pencils.

During lecture, teachers will often say things like, “Pay close attention to this next question, it will be on the exam,” or students will ask questions about which specific parts of a lecture or homework assignment will be on the test. The mindset that a class’ main purpose is to get a high score on the exams is detrimental to one’s education. Teaching a class for the test narrows a student’s thinking to a small set of concepts and makes them less inclined to retain the knowledge after they hand their scantron in.

The goal of a class should be to learn and master the subject and materials being taught. It should be to immerse and absorb knowledge that can be applied in the real-world. It should be to broaden one’s mind and explore new concepts and ideas and to grow as a person.

The test is merely a way to measure a student’s attentiveness and understanding. If a class is taught for the knowledge instead of the test, a student is much more inclined to really understand the material, and not just the material they will be tested on. And since in an ideal situation a student is more likely to pay attention to all the information, not only the questions specifically designated as test-worthy, the knowledge they take away will be much wider, deeper, and more useful than just the bubbles they fill in.

Any person with a decent memory and average study skills can remember enough information to pass a test if they know what’s on it. But if a class is taught with the intent of educating and passing on knowledge, instead of just passing the test, students will get more than just a good grade. Students will have a better understanding of the material and a higher chance of remembering and mastering it and will be better equipped to use what they have learned in future classes and their lives beyond school.

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno
Tessa Blair
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