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With high stakes testing, some students believe that the test tells them how smart they are. Students can come away from these tests thinking that they define them somehow - that the test tells them if they are a smart person or not.
This blog post was originally posted on Scholastic's Edublog on 3/20/2015. Republished with permission.
Learning vs. Performing
In The Hunger Games, at the Training Center before the "games" begin, Katniss Everdeen operates with a growth mindset. Her goal during those sessions is to improve, not to perform. She chooses stations where she can acquire new survival techniques, rather than stations where she can show off her advanced archery skills. Hence, other tributes observe her as a novice and they get the sense that she won't be a strong competitor. But she doesn't care. She knows that she can improve her survival skills (i.e. she has a growth mindset) and that doing so will help her.
But when the time comes for her private audition at the gym, Katniss' goals are different. They are not to learn, but to perform and show what she can do, so that the judges give her a high rating, which will help her gain sponsors. She initially misses the target, perhaps as a result of nervousness and lack of familiarity with the Capitol's bow, but she quickly adjusts her technique, calms herself down and delivers.
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." - William Bruce Cameron (and on a sign hanging in Albert Einstein's office)
"What is water?" said one fish to the other, illustrating that "the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about" (David Foster Wallace). One of these realities is that we teach competencies that can be easily tested and quantified rather than what is most important. This reality may seem obvious, but why do we keep doing it? If we strive to develop student agency, can we do a better job at taking agency ourselves for what we deem important?