Educate through Writing

I’ve always been at odds with the method of testing inĀ 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.

4 thoughts to “Educate through Writing”

  1. I completely agree with this. I’m a linguistics major and in most of my courses, we learn in-depth concepts and complicated theories about language. That being said, most of my exams are completely writing-based. Of course, my hand hurts for a few hours when I leave every exam. I also can never predict my grade walking out the room, because it truly depends on the professor in the way that he or she grades and the specific answer they may be looking for. However, I would rather take these exams than memorize terms or be tested on specific facts via multiple choice, True and False, etc. It gives me the ability to explain these concepts and theories how I see them and how they relate my own experience with language.

  2. I also agree with this. As an English major I clearly prefer writing papers to taking tests, because I feel that it allows for the liberty to express yourself in your own way and it often opens up discussion and ideas. I also like that there is no “right” answer, and while you can be a well developed or not well developed writer, nobody can look at a piece of your work and mark it “wrong”. On the other hand I do understand that there are some benefits to teachers testing on quotations and facts. First off, it hold the students accountable for actually doing the work. With all the websites that provide summaries of books, a lot of kids in my classes would not do the reading and when the assignment was given for the paper, they would come use these resources to help them get by without doing the work. I found this frustrating because it not only affected them but really detracted from the whole class. Also, having multiple choice tests teaches a certain way of thinking, and memorizing is a useful skill to have while also excercising your brain. Overall, I think there should be a balance between the two, which I don’t think we have currently in the education system. There definitely needs to be some sort of shift because writing, which teaches critical thinking, is greatly undervalued in my opinion and this needs to change.

  3. I also totally agree with all of the points you made here, Ben. I often think about this as well, and it is extremely frustrating that our education system continues to foster a “memorize and spit-out information” format in regards to testing. Thankfully though, I have found that many of my classes at Michigan do not follow this system. Although some still do, I have had the opportunity to take several courses (such as my english, writing, film, and some communications courses) that encourage me to take that next step and critically analyze my ideas through writing, rather than just spitting back information on an exam. If I had been learning to do this throughout my high school career, I feel that I would be much more prepared for my courses here as well as my future career. We are lucky to be surrounded by faculty and students in this writing minor who push us to keep thinking and developing our ideas through writing as well!

  4. As stated above, I concur with your argument. Requiring one to recall the owner of a quote does not test the students on intelligence, but the ability to recall information. Although this is a very useful tool, it is much more important to apply knowledge than recall it. Life requires application. If you only learn to recall information, then you will graduate college with a million random (mostly useless) facts. But if you learn to apply your attained knowledge, you will find a way to make connections between what you learned in college and your future life experiences.
    Writing is a great example of testing your “application.” As you said, “writing forces us to explain and articulate, rather than recall facts and information.” I am glad we have decided to strengthen the skill that tests our ability to apply our knowledge. It will benefit our life after college more than anything we memorized for an exam.

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