I get it, I do. Most non-educators that I work with in designing training and teaching events all proudly tell me that they plan to administer a pretest at the beginning of the training event. They have been dutifully taught that pre-tests are the only way to measure learning that they are about to impart to their participants or students.
The pretests that they show me are usually long, complicated, and intimidating forms asking the testee very specific knowledge points that all the participants specifically came to the training to learn. The post-test is almost always the EXACT same test as the pre-test; the only difference between the pre-test and the post-test being the headings PRE-TEST and POST-TEST boldly typed in imposing font at the tops of each test.
I will usually counter with my arsenal of brain research about how people best learn new information. I talk about how we do not wish to make the learners feel threatened in the very first hour by prompting them with big scary tests asking them about information that we already know they don't know. Pretests usually result in learners feeling threatened or embarrassed or frustrated or even fearful because by administering pre-tests, we imply that somehow we expect learners to know information that they don't yet know because we have not yet taught them. I explain that when learners feel threatened or embarrassed or frustrated or even fearful, their fear/rage response is triggered and well, all learning simply comes to a screeching halt. And then when the trainer or teacher collects the pre-tests and starts to teach, they have already diminished the group's ability to learn significantly. Not a great way to start a teaching or training event.
And yet, when those same trainers and teachers administer that same test - this time with the POST TEST heading - they can show significant gains in participant knowledge. Well yeah, that's because the trainers/teachers actually taught the information to the participants. No big surprise that there will be gains when you compare results. I believe strongly that if you don't administer that intimidating pre-test in its present scary form and test for prior knowledge in a more authentic way, those post-test results will be even greater.
As a former teacher and principal in the United States, I felt fairly knowledgeable about the various approaches and theories offered by way of school choices. I ran an international school, even started up a public charter school - I thought that I was largely in-the-know about school choice.
And then, my family and I decided to move to the Netherlands. We researched the international school option - a terrific system but WAY too expensive. We then learned that Holland is the only country in the world to offer state-subsidies for students holding a Dutch passport and a passport from another country to attend international schools to help them transition into Dutch society and language. These schools are specifically developed for kids like my son who are Dutch, have lived overseas for most of his life and who may initially struggle with adapting to a school where Dutch is the primary - sole - language of instruction. These international schools allow kids coming to Holland to slowly adjust to Dutch as the language of instruction and help them to adapt to their new life 'back home'. Wow. But then the more we looked - well, actually - the more Marcel looked, the more the options for schooling continued to unfold. We learned that the Dutch public schools, while all requiring students to take the national standards test, all have adopted different approaches in their methodology for educating their young charges. Some of the options include International Baccalaureate, Montessori, Jenaplan, Freeschool, Dalton, and then various religious institutions like Catholic and Protestant schools. To add to this rich mix, most of these schools also offer an 'Early Bird' plan for students who are learning Dutch so that part of the instruction - largely the reading and writing classes - are taught bilingually to accommodate both languages and encourage development of spoken and written abilities as well as reading comprehension and writing structure. Damn. These are PUBLIC schools, where the Netherlands' education system ranks in the top ten each year for reading and is currently ranked 11th in the world in math and science education. Now why can't the US get this right?
An educator nomad traveling and teaching her way around the world. Fun stuff.