TED Conversations

Gever Tulley

Author & Founder, Founder, Tinkering School


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Test Schools, Not Children

Instead of subjecting children to an endless series of tests and grades, we should be testing the schools for how engaged the children are, and how many ah-ha! moments there are in a typical day. In the long-term we should test how durable the learning is (how much 5th grade algebra and trigonometry do you remember?), how much curiosity the graduates retain, and how passionate they are for learning as adults.


Closing Statement from Gever Tulley

People perceive many issues in education today, and it is clear from our conversation (sometimes heated, sometimes brilliant), that any attempt to address one single issue necessarily leaves many unanswered issues. In general, those well served by a traditional education seem to see little problem with continuing the practice, and those who struggled through school embrace the notion of change - not for the sake of change, but for the chance that we might invent something better.

In seeking to change how we assess children, I started this conversation with the suggestion that we switch the focus of assessment to the schools. To many, this seemed to be a naive approach. A few commenters seemed to be saying, "the system can work, we just need to be more targeted with our testing." Many agreed that there was too much testing, but that some testing can actually be beneficial. Others found merit and suggested ways that it be implemented. Some concern was raised regarding the time it would take to know when a school was failing.

Eric Mercer turned the topic around, asking, "An educational system reflects, not creates, the habits and practices of a society. So which is broken?" My immediate thought is that the best way to fix an ailing society starts with fixing education, which seems to echo the sentiments of many commenters who suggested that schools aren't doing a good job of helping students discover what they truly want to do with their lives. Lee Wilkinson's high school experience seemed to be putting up more roadblocks when it could have been paving the way; "The problem as I see it is; I told them back then that this is what I wanted to do with my life and was told to stop day dreaming."

This has been a fascinating conversation, and I thank everyone for joining in. I am doing my small part to explore new ways to create meaningful education through Tinkering School and my newest project, Brightworks (http://sfbrightworks.org). All my best,

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    Feb 25 2011: I'm 20y old and in the 7th grade I wasn´t aproved to the 8th grade, at that time I remember not having "happy" days in school, all I used to do was wrinting stuff that were on the blackboard and no interaction with teachers and all the material besides the black board were like a world map of the 60's and documentaries of the 80's.
    The teachers weren't motivated, they didn't like their jobs and that reflects on the students,
    At my second year teacher looked at me like I was a lost case and didn't bother about me and I became a part of a group of "lost cases" where teachers don't look to us and only see an F in my brain..

    As my case there were a lot, like 20% of the students that weren't aproved each year, all them get lost in drugs, and thinking that they're ideias didn't worth the effort, for example a big friend of mine wanted to be an Geographer and he wasn't aproved 3 times and he droped out, now he is just a guy addicted to cocaine, alcohol and living with sadness and with a "phobia" to schools.

    So, if schools should be tested, I guess yes, but first of all we need give the materials that a school needs to work.

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