Speed tests

In my last year of junior school (Year Six, as people of today’s era might call it), I was in form J3Sn. Year three of junior school, in the class of Jack “Sandbags” Sanderson. Our nickname for him wasn’t much cop, thinking about it retrospectively.

I remember he gave maths tests. But instead of being held in class and set against a reasonable time limit, I vaguely remember them being held outside of class, and the whole objective was to finish them in record time. Literally against a stopwatch. Rather unimaginatively, they were called “speed tests”. (My romanticism over the last 29 years (ouch!) thought they were called something more artistic than that. But alas not.)

I revelled in these. The sense of competition combined with my penchant for numbers made for a lovely combination.

In all walks of education, there should be a sense of competition introduced at varying levels. While it’s good practice to ensure that students have a grasp of what is being taught, I think it’s also useful to add a dimension to the learning experience for students, particularly in binary subjects like maths (ones where, largely, you’re either right or wrong).

Regular tests are an onus to the student (and the teacher, I guess). They pit the student against the teacher. (And most of the time, the student has no interest in being pitted against the teacher.) By and large, the student is simply trying to do well in the test.

By bringing in the time element, it suddenly becomes a competition between the students. The dynamic changes dramatically.

I remember both the speed tests and Mr Sanderson fondly. I hope my daughter enjoys similarly inspiring moments during her own education.


One Response to “Speed tests”

  1. Nick Robinson on March 19th, 2012 13:30

    I’ve been told recently (second-hand, haven’t had a chance to check the data for myself yet) that responding to time-limited and pass/fail situations positively is a male trait. It seems that the corollary of that is that young women respond better than young men to the longer-term, less pass/fail approach necessary for doing well at course work. This apparently partly explains the increasing gender divide at GCSE level.
    I suspect that gender has a slightly lower impact on this kind of issue than inherited traits plus nurture though, so YOUR daughter might like similar tests…

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