Gifted Children and Tests

At #gtie last week we discussed Gifted Children and Tests. Not only did we have participants from Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Cork, we had our faithful supporters from the US; Toby from Oklahoma and Lisa from Pittsburgh. Amongst our number, there were parents of both primary and secondary school students, a homeschooler, teachers and an educational psychologist. So, a wide range of experience!

The transcript (with a few tweets missing, I notice) is available here, and here is a brief summary of what came up, with a few extra links:

The problems that gifted children may encounter in tests:

Poor concentration, not finishing.

Test anxiety: Gifted Children Scared of Tests

Perfectionism:Helping Gifted Students Cope With Perfectionism

I think there’s a fear of being exposed as a fraud if they don’t excel

Big issue with current ‘high stakes’ tests is that they are mostly ‘scribble down all the knowledge you can’ type tests rather than ‘apply the knowledge and solve problems’ type test.

If kids find tests easy when young, they may never learn study skills. When things get harder later, self-doubt is introduced. They need challenge from the outset.

Then we moved on to the types of tests done:

I favour the International Baccalaureate over others like the Leaving Certificate  because of the Continuous Assessment component and the real world experience.

I wish we could base tests on real-world issues and problems. Use take-home format
and give time to reflect.

More standardised testing is a concern. Once the minimum standard reached, the box is ticked, “everyone” is happy and gifted kids left unstretched.

Parents should watch for this in school in Ireland now – more standardised testing coming down the line. (In primary and secondary. NCCA report on standardised testing at second level)

I hope this won’t mean more teaching-to-the-test, but my hopes aren’t too high!

It will because as ever, standardised tests will be used to judge teachers, not the students
sitting them- Cracked!! (Standardised Testing and Its Victims)

Testing is black and white answers that give a final number; assessment is more subtle but has more subjectivity in it.

Testing versus assessment

How do we help children cope with the expectation of tests?

In my children’s primary schools neither they, nor we, were told in advance when the standarised tests would be, no hype.

True, I think they didn’t want the mammies getting hyper more than the kids though!

I think it depends on the child. DD1 needs reminding to prepare. DD2 needs
to be told ‘it’s only a test’. (DD means dear/darling daughter)

A shift of focus from praising children for being clever to praising their effort and hard work.

Definitely praise is a must – self esteem can be a problem but how to stress a test is
important,  to do his best, without making him feel pressured?

Praising effort and results while not praising the individual is pretty tough but can be done with good results.

Helping children cope with studies

Now we moved on to more philosphical matters!

Information on Assessment for Learning (AfL) from the UK.

Common Core Standards from the US.

Common Core has an interesting by-line-‘preparing America’s STUDENTS for college and career’ rather than PEOPLE for living.

A kid is so much more than his/her exam results.

They are important but if we make exams a zero-sum game – it just freaks kids out.

Testing can tell a kid they have failed – not why. We need to help them understand why: Kids Fail Less When They Know Failure Is Part Of Learning, Study Finds

All of these standardized tests reduce students (and now/in future) teachers and schools to a number. NOT humanitarian.

Some kids have talents that aren’t measured by exams but may become central to later life
sucess. Need to see big picture.

Exactly, who says we have to measure it all at 15 or 18 anyway? We can’t possibly, nor should we want to.

It’s very wrong that we tell kids they are failures at the age of 18 just because they didn’t do well in a state exam.

Taylor’s Multiple-Talent Model

Finally: Education should make a child feel competent; testing can undermine that.

by Peter Lydon & Catherine Riordan