Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Motivation and Standardized Testing

Strauss and Quinn do a wonderful job of situating their text and theory within their own field of anthropology and related fields. I appreciated (and may use in the future!) their review of literature / history.

I wonder how they would connect the durability of learning, self-evaluations and our current proliferation of standardized testing? Strauss and Quinn explain that one way socializers motivate learning is by strengthening self-evaluations that drive learners' behavior (p. 104). This seems reasonable, but I have to question their claim that teachings and motivation are fortified because "...wanting to be good and not bad not only makes learners learn well what it takes to be good and not bad, but also makes them want very much to do what they have learned it takes" (p. 105).

In our public schools, children are socialized from at least third grade that performing well on standardized tests is highly valued by their teachers/schools, while performing poorly can result in feeling isolation, shame and other painful emotions that Strauss and Quinn attach to motivation. Clearly, there is a culture of achievement that models "good" behavior.

How would Strauss and Quinn address the astronomical drop out rates of students who perform poorly on standardized tests? Learners may want very much to do what it takes, but I question whether they have learned what exactly "it" is.


Blogger Anthony M. said...

I hate to be a broken record and repeat what I said in response to jmj. But.... I think this, too, points to a limitation in S and Q's theory. Yes, I think it's true that "learners" probably "want to do what it takes" or, in to put it in Lave and Wenger's terms, they want to become "full participants" in a group. But if we focus too much on the individual learner and what's going on "in" his/her head, we neglect the complexity of the context that learner is part of, a context which is made up of competing communities of practice. By ignoring the context, we ignore the aspects of one community (namely, school) that may be holding the individual out of fuller participation in that community and the aspects of other communities that make them easier to participate in.

5:42 PM  
Blogger asw said...

You raise such an interesting point regarding standardized testing. I am actually wondering how much the children in the public schools are forming schemas of how to approach the standardized testing experience and its outcomes.

You mention that you wonder whether the students really learn or just learn to take the tests. I think this goes back to the chapter in the last text we had in which the authors presented a study that analyzed how the students did in their college exams with the professors and questioning whether their learning was for the test itself or for their own good.

I wonder what kind of cultural meaning is being created among the children of what is knowledge at the grade school level based on these standardized tests?

6:09 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

I think the message is performance-approach to life instead of mastery approach - this has huge implications in that the message is to always have something externally motivating you versus the pursuit of soemething that internally motivates you.

4:20 PM  

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