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Secret Teacher: Exams Have Left My Students Incapable of Thinking

Secret Teacher: Exams Have Left My Students Incapable of Thinking

Exams have been a subject of debate for some time now, and teachers all over have been expressing their like and dislike for required testing.

One teacher writing anonymously says they* find that exams have left their students "incapable of thinking", according to a recent Secret Teacher article on 

The article opens with common questions the teacher receives during testing periods and their responses to the situation, and to their students.

"'How many sentences should I write? How big should I draw the diagram? Should I write my own opinion?' These are some of the questions my students asked me this morning," Secret Teacher wrote. "Looking at that sample, you might assume they are in primary school, but you would be wrong. I teach a humanities subject in an 'outstanding' sixth-form college in an affluent area. My students are bright, engaged and well-behaved, but there is something missing: they cannot think."

“'What word should I use to start this sentence?'

Minds focused on the future and eyes trained on exams, anything unrelated to the syllabus is considered an irrelevant distraction," Secret Teacher wrote. "I was moved to write this by a conversation I had with one of my brightest students last week. In the middle of a lesson, she asked if I was going to give the class a summary sheet of answers.

'Er, no…' I responded, 'I’m not going to spoon-feed you.'

'Oh,' she said. 'But I like being spoon-fed.'

I felt winded. I don’t know where I got my love of learning from, but, thinking is freedom. The legacy of the Enlightenment. Thought is what separates us from animals, gives us human rights, protects us against groupthink, and enables us to create democracies, computers, music and comedy. I am immeasurably grateful that I have been encouraged to think, to satirise, to criticise. I have been asked questions, not given the answers. But all my students want to do is blindly copy down information."

“'How many examples should we write down?'” They treat education like a military exercise," Secret Teacher wrote. "Students think there are set answers to life’s questions; they want a formula for the number of sentences per paragraph and expect information they can rote-learn. How does this prepare them for anything? A book is a decoration, a door-stop, a paperweight. An idea is irrelevant. A thought is a distraction. What grade have I got for this?"

Read the full story and comment below. 

*We don't know the gender of this teacher, so we have elected to use the pronoun "they." Additionally, British spellings from the original article have been kept.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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