Fostering Creativity or Teaching
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Fostering Creativity or Teaching توسيع / تضييق
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تاريخ التسجيل:
1431/03/08
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The Clearing House, 83: 54–57, 2010

Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ISSN: 0009-8655 print

DOI: 10.1080/00098650903505399

Fostering Creativity or Teaching

to the Test? Implications of State

Testing on the Delivery of Science

Instruction

CHRISTOPHER LONGO

Abstract: High-stakes testing has driven the way that

educators deliver instruction. Historically, standardized

testing has been in existence since the 1800s, but the impact

of accountability was not recognized until the late

1970s. Science educators are trying to balance the requirements

of state assessments with creative and meaningful

curricula. Inquiry-based science instruction has

led the way in assisting students in the process of discovering

knowledge for themselves instead of simply being

asked to recall information. Inquiry learning promotes

creativity by increasing motivation, wonderment, and

curiosity. The author proposes that inquiry is the key to

enhancing creativity, while still meeting the demands of

standardized testing.

Keywords: inquiry, creativity, science, instruction, accountability

I t is an ordinary day in a middle school, one month

before Connecticut’s first science standardized assessment.

The dismissal bell rings, and students scamper

out of the building for the bus. Other students

head to extra help sessions or afterschool activities. Mr.

Reynolds, the seventh grade science teacher, and his

student Kilwienny, sit side-by-side in the classroom reviewing

for a forthcoming unit assessment. The test will

focus on ecosystems and is directly alignedwith the state

standards. As Mr. Reynolds helps Kilwienny review key

concepts, she asks, “Do we have to know predator-prey

relationships for the test? How many examples do we

have to know? What types of questions are on the test?”

The student makes inquiries for the duration of the extra

help session.

Christopher Longo is a science teacher at Bethel Middle School, Bethel, CT, and a

doctoral student at Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, CT.

Educators face a dilemma each and every day. Teachers

are challenged to prepare students for standardized

assessments while still adding creativity to the curriculum.

Frequently, students express concern merely with

what will appear on the upcoming assessment. Teachers

are often criticized for “teaching to the test” and therefore

enabling students. State assessments can steer even

the most skilled teachers down the wrong path as they

deliver instruction. The implementation of an inquiry

learning model can stimulate creativity in the science

classroom, while still preparing students for high-stakes

state assessments.

In using inquiry, educators can spark students’ curiosity

by inspiring increased levels of motivation and authenticity

through real-world lessons and assessments.

Students learn process skills in addition to traditional

content under the guided direction of the teacher. Hammerman

supports inquiry learning by stating that “effective

teachers mediate the learning process by continually

making decisions that help studentsmake sense of their

experiences through explanations, clarifications, examinations,

and assessments of their work” (2006, xxv).

Teachers can find creative ways to prepare students efficiently

for standardized assessment when mediating

learning that allows students to discover knowledge on

their own.

A Brief Historical Perspective on Standardized

Testing

Recent state assessments have been implemented in

the hope that students will score consistently with predetermined

standards set forth by the state. These overarching

standards are part of a federal mandate, No

54

Implications of State Testing 55

Child Left Behind (NCLB), of which the primary goal

is to close the learning achievement gap in the country.

One of the major drawbacks of this legislation is

that NCLB penalizes districts that have many minority

or disadvantaged children. With the beginning of the

reauthorization process of NCLB in 2007, this dilemma

is not going away. Educators must find successful ways

to prepare students for standardized assessments.

According to Gallagher (2003), the use of standardized

scholastic testing dates back to the mid-nineteenth

century, when Horace Mann introduced the concept of

testing to gain information about the quality of teaching

and learning in Boston schools. Testing was implemented

to assess students’ knowledge and determine

levels of proficiency. Achievement tests were the next

type of assessment adopted, followed by student tracking

in the 1920s.

The use of standardized testing became more common

during World War II and the Cold War. At the

time, national leaders believed thatmaintaining a “competitive

position in the world was dependent on identifying

student talent in academics, leadership, and

managerial skills” (Gallagher 2003, 90). As a result, testing

determined placement and advancement. The next

major event in the history of standardized testing was

the passage of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary

Education Act of 1965, which channeled money into

underfunded schools. However, school districts were

required to prove that the funds were being used appropriately

through justifiable results. Thus, Title I required

schools to administer standardized test and demonstrate

certain scores to receive federal funding.

Standardized testing, however, had little effect on instructional

practices until the late 1970s, when accountability

became an issue. As time went on, standardized

testing became widespread and its use more prevalent

from state to state.

In 2008, standardized science assessments were first

implemented at the elementary and middle school levels.

Based on the nature of inquiry learning associated

with science, these tests model real-life applications of

the concepts found in state standards. Although some

states reinforce the use of inquiry learning through portions

of their adopted science curriculum, the reality is

that this assessment is content-driven.

Diminishing Creativity or Sparking Ingenuity?

Standardized testing remains a contentious issue in

education today, and many argue that it weakens creativity.

Scores generated by state assessments are used

for political purposes to compare students, institutions,

and teachers. Standardized testing has always

had a major impact on education, but it now impacts

an area in which students have opportunities to display

creativity—science education. Despite the emphasis

placed on standardized testing by local and state boards

of education as a result of NCLB, it is still possible to infuse

creativity into the science classroom while closing

the achievement gap and ensuring that no child is left

behind.

High-stakes testing often causes educators to lose

sight of meaningful and creative science instruction.

When students take more responsibility for their learning,

creativity can be stimulated as a result. In their article

Creating CreativeMinds, Sternberg and Lubart suggest

that “students need to take more responsibility for the

problems they choose to solve, and we need to take less.

The students will make mistakes and attempt to solve

inconsequential or even wrongly posed problems. But

they learn from their mistakes” (2007, 170).

Inquiry to the Rescue

Several months ago, a teacher was observed, by the

author, creating a lesson on the human nervous system

in which students experimented with the effects of various

stimuli on reaction time. One group of students

asked the teacher if they could deviate from the lab

procedure and design their own. The teacher hesitantly

agreed. All of the other students were measuring reaction

time the same way the teacher had demonstrated

the day before, by catching the meter stick and recording

the difference in distance for each trial. Ultimately, the

group of students who designed their own experiment

not only mastered all of the content on the formative

assessment that followed, but they also had the highest

scores in the class! This teacher’s accidental use of inquiry

corroborates the need for inquiry learning in the

classroom.

Teachers must be aware of effective ways to implement

science instruction, while still preparing our students

for state assessment. Utilizing an inquiry-based

science program can meet both of these goals. Today’s

educators can only hope to adequately prepare students

without falling victim to the complacent demands of

legislature. Teachers express concern “that colleagues

who are currently implementing researched, inquirybased

science that awaken students’ curiosity and wonder

may soon be thwarted by mandated, all-time consuming

packaged programs” (Manley 2008, 36).

The days of lecturing are over. Inquiry-based science

instruction is at the forefront of instructional practice.

Inquiry-based learning defines the teacher’s role as helping

students through the process of discovering knowledge

for themselves and not providing the knowledge

for them, thereby promoting creativity. Hammerman

describes inquiry as “the creative, ongoing synthesis of

observations, reflections, and information. The process

of inquiry defines the context and processes that enable

the learner to craft understanding” (2006, xxii).

Preparation, not Spoon-Feeding

Preparation for high-stakes assessments is ongoing.

So the question is: are we teaching to the test? The

56 The Clearing House 83(2) 2010

answer is yes. In a sense, exceptional teachers teach

to the test without even realizing it. Excellent teachers

satisfy the requirements of state assessments without

spoon-feeding the content. By using an inquiry approach,

science educators can combine both content

and process skills, thereby preparing students for standardized

testing while still maintaining creativity in the

classroom.

Creatively Teaching to the Test

Most educators are guilty of teaching to the test at

some point in their career. The new question is: are we

creatively teaching to the test? When the Connecticut

State Department of Education (CSDE) revised its science

curriculum standards in 2004, it included a new

standard termed scientific inquiry. The CSDE cites scientific

inquiry as:

A thoughtful and coordinated attempt to search out, describe,

explain and predict natural phenomena. Scientific

inquiry progresses through a continuous process of

questioning, data collection, analysis and interpretation.

(2004, 19)

Teaching a curriculum that is solidly linked to inquiry

learning is a key to creativity. Students generate their

own questions through inquiry learning and develop

critical thinking skills. As a result, they find problems

instead of just solve them. Hammerman observes that

“through the process of sharing ideas and information,

new ideas and questions emerge that energize and perpetuate

the cycle of learning” (2006, xxiv). By generating

thoughtful, real-world, and metacognitive opportunities,

we make connections with students that are not

forgotten on standardized assessments.

Utilizing Understanding by Design

Effective curriculum design is pivotal in learner preparation.

By utilizing the Understanding by Design (UbD)

model, educators can map out a strategic plan to design

curriculum with the learner in mind. Wiggins and

McTighe (2005) suggest that teachers use a backwards

design by identifying desired results, determining acceptable

evidence, and then planning instruction. Implementation

of this model allows teachers to map out

an instructional path. Teachers can then design more

valuable lessons based on their knowledge of student

strengths and weaknesses in the hope of initiating creativity.

The backwards design of curriculum planning, instruction,

and assessment can prove to be extremely

beneficial if it is used in a way that stimulates critical

thinking by adopting real-world applications. This

design can become even more favorable if educators

vertically align curriculum from kindergarten through

twelfth grade.

The Balancing Act

Teachers constantly find themselves trying to balance

motivating instruction with state assessment requirements.

As stated earlier, inquiry learning is at the heart

of providing meaningful instruction. Students will not

fare well on a rigorous state assessment unless they are

challenged on a daily basis in the classroom.

By utilizing the five E’s developed by the Biological

Sciences Curriculum Study, teachers can efficiently use

inquiry learning. The five E’s are Engagement, Exploration,

Explanation, Elaboration, and Evaluation, and

“by guiding students through these five ways of approaching

science concepts, teachers can give students

the freedom to discover through exploration, yet guide

the search so that students can’t help but bump into the

target knowledge” (Robertson 2007, 68).

It is apparent that the way we deliver curriculum affects

student performance in science. Inquiry allows

learning to be hands on, rigorous, and applicationbased.

With the increasing demands of standardized

testing, educators must make sure they do not fall into

the pattern of just covering information. Instead, creativity

should be embodied in all units of instruction.

Sternberg and Lubart (2007) envision schools that understand

creativity as emphasizing flexibility in using

knowledge, encouraging risk taking, and adding more

emphasis on motivating children intrinsically, rather

than through assessment.

The Need for Further Empirical Research

TheConnecticut science assessmentwas first administered

at the elementary andmiddle school level inMarch

2008. There is yet little data to determine whether this

test, or any other state science assessment, is a reliable

and valid tool to measure progress toward standards.

This assessment can be used as a benchmark to provide

information on how well students are progressing

toward mastery. One can only hope that the collected

diagnostic feedback can guide instruction and improve

learning.

As each year passes, districts will have to make informed

instructional decisions on how to properly prepare

students for the state assessment. By using current

research, as well as science programs that are inquirybased,

hands-on, and creative, schools can appropriately

prepare students for these assessments.

Policymakers often use the National Assessment of

Educational Progress (NAEP) for comparisons and

guidance when evaluating their state assessments and

educational advancement. The NAEP has successfully

demonstrated both rigor and validity. There are concerns

with comparing this assessment to state assessments

related to the different levels associated with

the assessment. If the NAEP serves as an evaluative

tool for collecting meaningful data, then decisions

Implications of State Testing 57

can be made on a state-by-state basis in order to

proceed.

THE VERDICT

The temptation of “drill and practice” is apparent in

our schools. By instituting an inquiry-based science curriculum,

students have the opportunity to identify as

creative rather than the labeling that accompanies standardized

testing. Inquiry is the answer in leading the

way. Inquiry enhances creativity by providing an ongoing

combination of observations, wonderment, and

life-long learning.

In the midst of state assessment, school districts are

jockeying to surpass each other over one thing: test results.

Formany, all thatmatters are the results. The truth

is that state science assessments will continue to alter

the way educators deliver instruction. Every group of

students that passes through the school doors brings a

different level of understanding, energy, and creativity.

Regardless of state mandates, we must deliver a

curriculum that is motivating, properly aligned to state

frameworks, and applicable to real-life events through

the medium of inquiry learning. If we carefully follow

this way of thinking, then it is indeed acceptable to teach

to the test.

REFERENCES

Connecticut State Department of Education. 2004. Science curriculum

framework. http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/word docs/

curriculum/science/framework/sciencecoreframework2005v2.doc

(accessed June 2, 2009).

Gallagher, C. J. 2003. Reconciling a tradition of testing with a

new learning paradigm. Educational Psychology Review 15(1): 83–

99.

Hammerman, E. 2006. Eight essentials of inquiry-based science. Thousand

Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Manley, J. 2008. Let’s fight for inquiry science. Science and Children

45(8): 36–38.

Sternberg, R. J., and T. I. Lubart. 2007. Creating creative minds. In

Contemporary issues in curriculum, ed. A. Ornstein, E. Pajak, and S.

Ornstein, 169–78). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Robertson, B. 2007. Getting past “inquiry versus content.” Educational

Leadership 64(4): 67–70.

Wiggins, G., and J. McTighe. 2005. Understanding by design. Alexandria,

VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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تاريخ التسجيل:
1431/05/27
AM 0:31 
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Well , I just want to say

 thank you so much for this 

 

Mohammed AbdulHadi

Riyadh Schools for Boys and Girls

LP, Intermediate Stage   

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