While reading today, I discovered an unexpected side effect of the practise of teaching to the test. (At least it was unexpected to me; perhaps you will not find it so surprising?)
First, the “usual” problems with extended coaching for exams:
- the exam is no longer a good indicator of what students understand since they have only been narrowly trained to do specific question types
- the exam is no longer a useful way of selecting students for further courses since we don’t know if they really understood the mathematics they have “learned”
- the possible ranking of schools (for example, league tables in the UK) by student grades is not accurate since some schools have used extensive coaching while others have not
- employers can not be sure that students’ ability matches their test score
All these arguments are ones I have heard before about coaching students to pass an exam. But one undesirable side effect of exam coaching stood out to me:
- younger children see older ones being coached to success and they learn that at just they right time, they, too, will be spoon-fed what they need to know
As a result students learn that they do not need to take responsibility for their own learning, they do not need to study seriously or make an effort to understand and connect what they are learning.
Wow! I was shocked by this. One of my main goals is to make sure students understand what they are learning and can connect their mathematical ideas. I don’t want younger ones to learn that they don’t really need to work hard until the exam coaching begins.
My school only partly subscribes to the idea of coaching for exams. But I fully subscribe to the idea that students need to take responsibility for their own learning.
What exam preparation strategies do you use?
 I am talking about the repetitious, algorithmic coaching that happens in the lead up to standardised tests. Students, especially those who are near a grade level borderline, are taken (forcibly, at times) though many, many revision resources.