There’s a little known phenomenon called ‘Campbell’s Law’. It states that if everyone knows what is being used to measure progress, you can expect corruption.
Let’s apply it to UK schools for a sec. We all know that ‘test scores’ are crucial. And, because everyone knows it, student performance is subject to distortion.
Instead of trying to figure out how to make time for play, fun, joy, intrigue, music, creativity and the arts, educators are hyper-focused on boosting test scores. Headteachers feel the pressure, this gets passed on to teachers, and in turn, you have students that see school as a grades factory. Cue an exponential rise in stress, anxiety and associated mental health problems.
‘Campbell’s Law’ suggests we can expect short-cuts and cheating every step of the way.
Understandably, teachers get caught in a cycle of ‘how can we deliver the syllabus the quickest?’ ‘How can we revise the best?’ How many past papers can we cram in?’ ‘How can information be retained the longest?’ ‘How can we remove distractions?’ ‘How can we boost scores?’ All driven by the desperate need to avoid the shame of being at the bottom of the heap. (I’m not having a go. I’m just thinking out loud).
If we want kids to experience a sense of wonder and discover new information on their own, if we want them to generate novel, adaptive ideas, and if we want them to derive their own perspectives and conclusions after a discussion, then maybe we’re measuring ‘success’ in the wrong way?
Because when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.
If you want to steal a child’s love of a topic, make it mandatory for them to follow precise guidelines of what they have to know and what is irrelevant. Make them learn it. And then make them learn it again and again.
The Brilliant Schools mission is to get positive psychology embedded in the DNA of schools across the world. For young people to learn the value of positivity, confidence and optimism. For them to make positive choices about their attitudes. For children and teenagers to take personal responsibility for being upbeat and to understand that their choices influence those around them.
And the ‘test’ isn’t an exam. It’s life itself!
Apparently, early OfSTED reports alluded to ‘awe and wonder’ in the classroom. If this isn’t ‘awe and wonder’ then I don’t know what is!
If you want awe and wonder in your classroom, staffroom and community, you know where we are.