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Opting In: Teaching to the Test (Part 1)

Presidential Physical Fitness Award

There is nothing wrong in teaching to the test if the test "matches" the objectives contained in the curriculum designed for delivery.  In cases where tests are to be used as accurate and valid measures for determining whether pupil learning has occurred as intended, one always teaches to the test.  If this were not the case, then test data would not have much to do with any specific curriculum and would be useless as a source of information to improve learning.

Teaching to the test is appropriate if the test gives students a chance to show that they understand and can use what they have learned. and

If the tests are thoughtful and though-provoking, then teaching to the test makes sense, because the teacher is helping students prepare for the test.  The test should be an opportunity for the students to demonstrate what they know and can do. Grant Wiggins, the co-author of the very influential Understanding by Design teaching framework, writes:

Practical alternatives and sound arguments now exist to make testing once again serve teaching and learning. Ironically, we should "teach to the test." The catch is to design and then teach to standard-setting tests so that practicing for and taking the tests actually enhances rather than impedes education. So “teaching to the test” has a sound theoretical foundation.  It has long been seen as a positive indicator of good teaching.  And it is at the heart of what leading educators have practiced and preached for years. What, then, has happened in the last 15 years that has made "teaching to the test" synonymous with bad teaching?  We will take up that question in my next post. Next post:  Teaching to the Test (Part 2)

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