Monthly Archives: July 2011

Self-Determination Theory and the Testing Culture

Lots of talk these days on testing.  Lots.  So much that it will absolutely wear a person out.  However, most of that talk looks at testing from the outside.  It addresses data, “student achievement,” “student performance,” yada, yada, yada.  What it doesn’t consider is the individual learner in such an environment.  It doesn’t look at the effect of such a culture on the person who is actually supposed to be engaged in said learning.

Undermining Quality Teaching and Learning  does.  It addresses the question of “how” a person learns, and the importance of how a person learns.  The test culture only concerns itself with what a person learns, and it limits that “learning” to that which can be measured.  (Which means only explicit rather than tacit learning.  See Thomas and Brown for a great discussion of this.)  What makes Undermining Quality Teaching and Learning all too unique is that it looks at the issue of how learning occurs vs. what learning occurs and it considers this question from the perspective of the learner rather than the policy maker.  It correctly assumes that the learner’s way of viewing the world matters.  (And thus the learner’s way of viewing the subject matters.)  It assumes that the learner has a part in determining the importance of the subject to him or herself, and that this self determination makes a difference in his or her engagement with the subject matter.  It’s actually very simple.  What this paper does is connects dots wonderfully to see how an immersion in a school experience that is immersed in the testing culture makes a difference in the learners’ attitudes (the central leverage point in student engagement) towards their school work.

It’s a long article, but I can’t recommend it enough.