Thursday, December 19, 2013

Computer-Based Testing/Learning Strategies

Recently, a pithy post in Fast Company magazine garnered some good press for the GED Testing Service's computer-based testing initiative.  Erika Owen puts it in beautifully simple terms when she writes, "students think better when they pace themselves." However, the ideas promoted in this little piece have ramifications that I think will play out across the whole field of adult education in the coming years, regardless of the brand of high school equivalency test, and spilling over into the instruction side as well.  And note the relevance to 'the other adult education': human resource development.  This is big, yall.

In presentations, I've been talking a lot about a new tool for boosting GED scores: computer-based test taking skills. In short, the experience of testing on a computer (and particularly the design of the 2014 GED test) gives learners more control so they can spend more time showing what they know in an efficient and confident manner. As Owen distills it: pacing themselves = thinking better. 

Pacing Strategies

Awesome. What about learning? Does this idea of thinking better transfer over to the learning experience? Yes. Pacing is actually less about testing and more about control and choice in the learning process, which includes application. Pacing is affected learning plans are personalized, when learners can explore and stay in the flow of information with multiple communities/facilitators and on their own schedule. Adult Education programs need to access the power that awaits outside the four-walls of the classroom so their learners to take advantage of educational opportunities where and when it suits them (as well as in the classroom).  In other words, learner-centered services that build self-sufficiency rather than dependence.  I know there are risks and consequences, but the rewards and growth in new directions are worth the gamble. 

Working backwards from the other side of Fast Company's analogy... "Employees train better when they pace themselves." If the technology of the workplace spills over into our lives "24/7" then adult education programs need to prepare their clients for this kind of lifelong learning "in which they are learning all of the time."  If this is the expectation of the working world where we want our learners to succeed, then we've got to cultivate the kind of initiative and educational entrepreneurship that allows them to pace themselves with the hope that their goal is acceleration. 

I've been a little vague here, only because the Fast Company piece is so provocative and exciting exposure for our field.  More detailed prescriptions will take shape in 2014, I'm sure. What do you think? What kinds of ideas does this Fast Company piece inspire in you?


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