The Aussie Perspective
A little while ago my daughter, Miss 7, headed off to school for the start of the 3 day testing session we Aussies know and love as NAPLAN – National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy. All Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 sit the exams for the overall management and development of the national curriculum. NAPLAN has its lovers and its detractors, but all for another day. The reason I bring up these tests is to simply talk about tests.
When we are at school, we are subjected to all sorts of tests; on the spot math tests, spelling tests, end of year exams, high school certificates and the list goes on. In the early days the tests are quick, painless and mostly fun. Then they become more serious, there is study to be undertaken and there is the need to find the ability to cope with the testing process. It can be a nerve-wracking experience. What it does do is ‘test’ students (pardon the pun), it makes them think, it gives a clearer understanding of their abilities, their short-falls, where they can learn more and what they excel at; in the testing platform.
What happens when we leave school though?
We receive our grades, we might go to University and subject ourselves to more testing, or we may simply get a job. It struck me today when we grow up(!) we are no longer tested. Certainly corporations have employee reviews and KPI’s; while you may be great at your job, and receive a rave employee review, are you really being tested? If you have been doing the job for a while it can be almost second nature. We do the driving tests back in our teen years, get our licence and that’s it, drive for the rest of your life, no more tests.
Now I am certainly not suggesting I want to go back and do my driving test again, but to me the whole concept of testing is to measure, with the aim of improvement, learning and developing one’s mental capabilities. Remember back to when you were at school; do you remember the rush of adrenalin before an exam or test? I even remember the quick 20 math questions we used to do in Year 7; it was learning with a dose of classmate competition, and it made you push to achieve.
Testing is a lot like putting yourself out there, stepping out of your comfort zone, pushing the limits on what you thought you were capable of. And I think it’s a shame as we grow older many people stop expanding and testing themselves.
We are encouraged to keep up our physical fitness and there is no doubt about the benefits of doing so. In fact, taking on a new physical activity or pushing yourself in your current choice of activity, such as walking a bit further, taking a different route or going up the dreaded hill are all tests of our fitness. We can do the same for our brains. There are so many benefits to improving your critical thinking, creative thinking, reflective thinking and your ability to make predictions, along with simply learning new facts and figures. So why not seek out a new crossword book, puzzle book or take advantage of the plethora of apps online or on your phone and keep your brain in testing mode; improving, stretching your knowledge matching your mental age with your physical age.
“We have learned to live longer, now we have to learn to live well.” (Wooton & Horne 2010, LII)