I’ve always been at odds with the method of testing in our education system. Much of our testing requires students to memorize information and spit it back out in fill in the blank or multiple choice sections. Instead of rewarding students for thinking critically about a problem, our testing constrains students to think within certain parameters. My grievance here mainly applies to humanities-oriented classes. In science and math, this sort of testing is more appropriate because of the more mechanical nature of the subjects.
I still remember being so frustrated by high school english tests that asked me to identify what character said a certain quote in a book we read. What does that achieve? I would have benefited so much more if we were asked to explain an overarching theme, analyze certain plot dynamics and do other critical thinking-based tasks. This failing in our education produces kids who excel at “doing school,” but do not actually learn how to think for themselves. The real world–whether it be in your job, or dealing with everyday life–requires that you can think things through and work through problems. Bubbling in scantrons won’t get you through the day.
There are plenty of people who would disagree with me about this, and since I would much rather write a paper than take an exam, my bias is pretty obvious. However, writing forces us to explain and articulate, rather than recall facts and information. Writing will help students be proactive, instead of reactive, learners.