• January 30, 2017

Assessments and tests v. sleep and wellbeing

Performance Learning Blog - Assessments

Assessments and tests v. sleep and wellbeing

Life is full of assessments and tests in many different forms – written (academic, recruitment), emotional (events we face that help to make us stronger), or technical (learning to drive). In order to grow and move forward through life we must test ourselves, continuously.

When it comes to school, we are led to believe we have been prepared for our assessments, from SATS to the 11+ to GCSE’s, A/AS Levels and beyond, but are we really prepared?

Increasing numbers of students in the UK are sleep deprived. Science has proven that consistent poor sleep has a profound effect on brain development. In order to accurately assess a child’s true potential to do well in a test, should we not, along with standard assessments on reading, writing and listening, be assessing learners on how well they sleep?

In fact, science has proven that quality sleep has direct links to understanding what you learn during the day. Take SATS as an example: how can we accurately ‘assess’ a child’s potential with one test, accumulating many years of work and learning without being clear if the child is getting the 9-12 hours of sleep that they need? If they are sleep deprived, teaching them more content e.g. further help in their reading or maths won’t be as beneficial.

And if sleep deprivation wasn’t bad enough, what about fear?

Through our Performance Learning Online Analysis, we assess a child’s perception of their own ability. We ask for example, how good they feel they are at remembering information. Four out every five children we assess claim they have bad memories, feel anxious and/or overwhelmed and often find themselves switching off after the third or fourth line of reading a piece of text.

Again, surely an assessment should be taken once the child is emotionally and physically ready to take it, especially if it is going to determine the next stage in their academic career? Do we not want them to have the best chance of success?

For most, if not all under-performing students, the system is designed in such a manner that they are set up to fail.

The areas preventing them from reaching their potential are not being taught to them in the classroom. In fact, what is being taught is overwhelming them, increasing anxiety and de-motivating them. Anxiety is an emotional cancer, once it gets inside of you it is extremely difficult to overcome and more ‘content’ does not do the job.

It is time for us to harness the true power of assessments by teaching our children how to learn prior to assessing them and basing their academic future (let alone the peripheral consequences to their emotional health) on simply passing a test.

Many parents heralded the headteacher who advised children to rest and have fun ahead of the SATs to promote their emotional well-being rather than increasing anxiety. We should make tests a joy, an opportunity for pupils to show off their brilliance as opposed to highlighting their weakness.

Let’s deal with their barriers to sleep and well-being, how they manage their time, boost their ability to retain and recall information and ensure that they are walking into an exam hall or test classroom brimming with confidence.

Let’s do everything in our power to ensure no student suffers the slow, agony of anxiety. It is not just our job as educators, it is our duty.

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