Might MOOCs Contribute to the Demise of Standardized Testing?

Stanford professor Andrew Ng, who with his colleague Daphne Koller, founded Coursera is interviewed by Neal Conan on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”

Ng challenges the primacy of “testing” as a way to evaluate what students have learned. Ng suggests (and most worthwhile educators know) that testing must be used as one type of practice exercise, not an end-all-be-all assessment of what the student knows or can do. Ng says,

When we think about grading, we often think about assessing or evaluating students. But it turns out that as educators, we know that the far more important purpose of quizzes and homeworks [sic] is not to test the student but to give students the opportunity to practice with the material and thus remember the material longer.

This point, of course, is extremely relevant in the current debate in primary and secondary public education. Perhaps one benefit of Coursera is that it will help put “testing” in its proper place. It could, because what these elite MOOCs are illustrating is that people are innately drawn to learning, ESPECIALLY when they’re given choices in how they are able to interact with the material.

Standardized testing provides students with the exact opposite of “choice.” No wonder the drop out rates in traditional educational settings is increasing by the moment.

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