With the start of the academic year swiftly approaching, it is time for another of my seminal articles on progressive education. Others, perhaps, will follow. When these cutting-edge "best practices" come to a school near you, remember: you read about them here first. As always, I welcome reader response.
In my previous monograph, Project 1812 [which you can find on this blog, July 2011], I suggested a method for insuring that kinesthetic high school students learn unforgettable lessons in history without the necessity of doing things for which they are not best suited, such as reading and writing. Here I propose a method for administering tests to kinesthetics.
The whole idea of testing is, of course, undergoing scrutiny and debate. It does not seem too far-fetched to suggest that in many schools—certainly in those progressive institutions that so rightly put a premium on innovation and creativity—the notion that students should periodically have to undergo exhausting, psychologically painful, and possibly humiliating ordeals in which they are expected to know things, and to demonstrate this knowledge by writing some of it down, will soon be as passé as slide projectors, mimeograph machines, and lectures, replaced by a portfolio system or a group project system or anything that will remove the necessity for schools to differentiate industriousness, ability, or intelligence, or award low grades to anyone.
However, until that happy day arrives, “traditional” testing will be a major component of high school classes. But how can such tests be made fairer for kinesthetic students, whose learning style makes laboriously studying famous people, notable events, crucial dates, and cause-and-effect relationships very difficult? An innovative pedagogy surely will not try to make these students overcome their weaknesses, but will take advantage of their strengths.
I propose the adoption of Scavenger Tests for the use of kinesthetics.
Students certified by the school psychologist, psychiatrist, “counselor,” astrologer—whatever functionary identifies some young persons as more comfortable using their hands than their heads—will be tested in a separate place. The teacher will distribute the test, which will be the same as that being administered somewhere else to the visual and verbal learners. However, the kinesthetics need not write anything on the test. Instead, the answers to the various questions will have been printed on little pieces of paper and hidden throughout the room: in books, behind classroom furniture, under the rug, inside light fixtures, etc. etc. The students will leap from their archaic, confining desks and scurry about to find these answers. When a student finds an answer, he will go to his desk and staple it next to the corresponding question. Think how much fun this will be for the kinesthetics: they can use the motion of their bodies and their tactile curiosity to complete the test without having more than a rudimentary knowledge of the subject being tested!
Tests of course vary in difficulty, from basic quizzes to final exams (in those reactionary schools that have not yet abolished such ghastly ordeals as final exams). The mechanics of a Scavenger Test do not vary, but the challenge can be enhanced by increasing the area in which the answers are hidden. Instead of only the classroom, answers can be secreted in corridors, on other floors, in bushes, flower beds and other campus shrubbery, in administrative offices, perhaps in a drawer in the Headmaster’s desk. The haptic learners should then have a really kinetic evaluational experience as they ransack the entire school to find them. (This can be a learning experience for the whole school community, too, which can live through a simulation of the sack of Jerusalem in 1099 or the Spanish Fury at Antwerp in 1576.)
Thus a Scavenger Test can be varied in its difficulty, from the basic “Easter Egg Hunt” model to a cataclysmic exercise that leaves the school looking like northern France in 1918.
The “basic” Scavenger Test presupposes that the number of answers is sufficient for all the students to get an A+ : i.e. if there are nine students being tested, nine copies of each of the answers will be hidden. But those schools interested in introducing an element of real-world competitiveness into testing—for seniors, perhaps, about to leave the loving, caring coddling of an innovative and creative private school for the reality outside—can easily simulate this by simply making fewer answers available than there are students. Imagine the enhanced excitement generated by telling several seniors, their competitiveness and aggression already honed to a razor’s edge by years of playing sports, that there is only one hidden answer to each ID question. The result should be exceedingly kinetic. And the mayhem may reduce the number of kinesthetics at the school—which, readers may recall, was also one purpose of Project 1812.