Posted in Testing

Testing: Let me count the ways!

My last two blog posts have been about testing, and whether traditional testing is appropriate for all students. Many educators have long recommended different ways of teaching and testing, so as to empower all children to learn to the best of their abilities.

So what are ways of testing that tap into different learning styles and needs, and ensure that teachers and parents have a more accurate measure of students’ knowledge and skills?

Here are a few examples:

  • audio or video reports
  • drawings, collages, photo essays, infographics
  • putting on performances, skits, puppet shows
  • writing play or movie scripts, making props and sets
  • building or crafting, including models, diagrams, totem poles
  • making up songs, poems, recipes, mosaics, eulogies, time capsules
  • designing posters, brochures, maps, surveys, contracts, awards, timelines, flags
  • researching family trees or history timelines
  • planning trips
  • audio or video recording of discussions or “interviews”
  • creating photo journals or scrap books
  • student-created tests, quizzes, or games
  • portfolio assessments

Real learning requires interaction, hands-on involvement, integration of subjects, encouragement of learning styles and talents, and time for the questioning/discovery process to unfold.

The possibilities are endless – happy testing!

copyright 2020 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis
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Posted in Testing

Testing: Skills or Content?

In his book, Cultural Literacy, E. D. Hirsch writes about his concern that our children are growing up without committing to memory those bits of information that are a part of our culture—the bits of information that make a person “well-rounded” and “well-educated.” According to Hirsch, this is because in the last few decades schools have been putting primary importance on teaching skills rather than traditional content.

Instead of Hirsch’s theory, could it be because passing on content is NOT best achieved through memorizing isolated pieces of information in order to pass tests?

The fact is that content is not a problem when children are given the tools they need to acquire it. Most schools are set up to deliver content only to those children who are skilled at rote learning. Those who learn in other ways are not being served. Rita Dunn, a pioneer in customized learning, concluded after years of working with Learning Styles: “Most children can master the same content, how they master it is determined by their individual styles,” David Elkind, psychologist and professor or child development gave this advice: “It’s not that we shouldn’t have expectations and standards, but we need to recognize that children don’t all learn in the same way at the same rate.”

Dunn further recommends, “Rather than eliminating testing, it seems sensible to require that teachers teach using learning styles and then give the students opportunities to demonstrate how well they learn. We should strive to transform all of our schools into learning style schools.”

For the real world students need to learn skills and content, so why not provide both? Rather than simply piling on information, and giving the A’s and B’s to those who have a facility for “memorizing for the test,” we can empower all children to learn—whatever content we decide is important—by drawing upon the inherent intelligence of each child.

It is important that parents and teachers become knowledgeable about learning styles, in order to ensure that your children / students become eager, self-directed, successful learners, not only for school learning but, more importantly, for real life.

Adapted from Discover Your Child’s Learning Style by Willis and Hodson Copyright 2020 by VKHodson & MPelullo-Willis, Reflective Educational Perspectives, LLC / LearningSuccess™ Institute •,

Posted in Testing

Anxiety Free Testing

A person learns the most when mistakes are viewed as lessons to learn from, rather than failures. It’s said that Thomas Edison himself did over 9,999 experiments trying to invent the light bulb, with no luck. On the ten-thousandth try he got it right. When asked how he could continue after experiencing so many failures, he assured the inquirer that he had not experienced a single failure; he had merely learned all of the ways that didn’t work, bringing him closer to the solution.

The real world depends on learning from mistakes as the source of motivation to take the next step. If our schools are to educate for the real world, they must give kids the opportunity to:

  • be tested without fear of mistakes
  • learn from the tests
  • be given the opportunity to be retested

What’s the point of giving a weekly test, marking the grade, and moving on? How is one supposed to learn from this system?

What if kids could take tests without anxiety? We are completely devoted to “practice makes perfect” when it comes to sports, music, and dance—why not for academics? If no grades were attached to daily quizzes and weekly tests, students could practice and learn, and they could go back over the material they missed to find out what they don’t understand, or what they still need to memorize.

Learning to memorize is actually a very useful tool that one can take into adulthood. If we taught each child to memorize by using his/her learning style strengths, he/she would not only learn the content, but also the skill of memorizing. In this case, memorizing would no longer be an exercise in futility—a short- term objective to get a grade—it would be transformed into a valuable technique to be used throughout one’s life.

Using testing to teach rather than label helps all kids to learn content while they are also learning about how they learn. Instead of being graded on tests, students could be graded based on their effort and final outcome, after learning the material.

With this system, each child’s natural intelligence is valued and encouraged and each child experiences success. Experiencing many successes leads to confidence—which spills over into real life and sets the stage for experiencing accomplishments as adults.

Adapted from Discover Your Child’s Learning Style by Willis and Hodson Copyright 2020 by VKHodson & MPelullo-Willis, Reflective Educational Perspectives, LLC / LearningSuccess™ Institute •,