Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eidetic Memory and Testing

Do you have an eidetic memory?  According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, you probably don't.  I love Wiki articles as a launching point for further inquiry, and I think this deserves more study. I only know how my own thoughts go and I, most often, think in pictures.  So, the alternate term for eidetic memory is kind of silly, because lots of people think in pictures and recollect via pictures, therefore lots of people have "photographic memories."  I always like to say, I have a photographic memory but the camera is out of focus.  Mostly because I do think in pictures, and, at times, I can recall a specific picture in my mind.  Unfortunately, oftentimes there's a part of the picture that's blurry.

Best example I can think of off the top of my head: I can picture myself in Mr. Gaines' Bible class (not sure what grade, but it was in high school in the "new" building so it must have been between sophomore-senior years), and I'm taking a Bible memory verse quiz.  I can remember that I could picture the verse in my head (though I've lost the verse now) and I could remember the first half, but I was stuck on a certain part.  But, I could remember what column and what part of the page the verse was one and up until that point I could remember the words, but the rest of the page was fuzzy.  I can still picture where on the page it was; left page, right column, a little more than half way down.  So, obviously in some cases I remember in pictures, but when it comes to music, especially music I've heard but not played, I don't always associate a picture with the music in my head.  I just hear it in my mind.

I was listening to Plato's Republic some more today (like that non sequitur?), which again I have many disagreements with, but in one thing (from book four) I agree with Plato; that is: the importance of education.  Then, as I was thinking about how important education is and today's education climate that seems to think that teachers should be held accountable for their student's performance on "standardized tests" which apparently is leading to "gaming the system", I came up with my idea to help.  I know it's not a perfect analysis of the issue, but my initial thought to helping resolve the problem would be to use two tests each year.  I know that seems like it will only lead to more problems and I feel that much of today's education problems stem from too many tests, but I think that if we're going to base teacher's salary, benefits, and promotions etc. on test performance let's make sure we're testing the right things.

Now, about these two tests...  well, first off, it's actually only one test.  Though I don't think it should be the exact same test twice; because, just by virtue of taking the test once all students would presumably perform better the second time.  No, it should be two virtually identical tests which cover everything the class is intended to cover for the whole year.  Yep, you heard me... a comprehensive test which covers everything the student should have learned over the course of the whole year of class.  But here's the kicker... all the students should take this test BEFORE the school year begins, say on the first or second day of class.  You might respond that all the students should fail.  Well, yes in a manner of speaking most of the students shouldn't know hardly any of the answers.  However, the first test serves as a baseline for the second test to show improvement.

Here's my logic behind this... Some people in every class are going to be extraordinary, WITHOUT the teachers' input; some are not...  So, how can we test to show how much someone learns (presumably from the teacher) without a baseline.  The idea of holding teachers accountable is not necessarily a bad thing, but lets make sure we're not just punishing a teacher for having students that aren't as bright as other students.  After students take both the tests (which should be developed by the teacher), as long as some of the students make some progress then the teacher has done his or her job.  That can be quantifiable evidence used in paying, promoting and providing for teachers.  There should be strict proctoring and review of the test by a group of teachers, and as much as possible we should prevent teachers from cheating.  However, if we hire good people to teach the future of humanity there shouldn't be much danger of cheating.  Only the most trustworthy people should be entrusted with the minds of the future.