What teachers need to do, Noam Chomsky on assessment

Passing tests doesn’t begin to compare with searching and inquiring and into pursuing topics that engage and excite us. That’s far more significant than passing tests. In fact, if that’s the kind of educational career that you’re given the opportunity to pursue, you will remember what you’ve discovered. There’s a famous physicist, a world-famous physicist right here at MIT who, like a lot of the senior faculty, was teaching freshmen courses, he once said that in his freshmen course, students will ask, “What are we going to cover this semester?” His standard answer was, “It doesn’t matter what we cover, it matters what you discover.”

That’s what teaching ought to be; inspiring students to discover on their own, to challenge if they don’t agree, to look for alternatives if they think there are better ones, to work through the great achievements of the past and try to master them on their own because they’re interested in them. If that’s the way teaching is done, students will gain from it and will, not really remember what they studied, but will be able to use it as a basis for growth, on their own. Again, education is really aimed to just helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own because that’s what you’re going to do in your life, not just to absorb materials given to you from the outside and repeat it.

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