Column One: Research

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Testing experts' views of whether "teaching to the test" is acceptable or not are related to their beliefs about learning, a researcher from the University of Colorado at Boulder has concluded.

Surveying a sample of 50 district measurement specialists, Lorrie A. Shepard found that about half "operate from implicit learning theories" that make it desirable for instruction to be directed toward the test.

These theories, Ms. Shepard states, are associated with the type of behaviorist models that held sway in psychology decades ago, in which learning was thought to be a sequential series of steps toward mastery.

But, she notes, recent studies in cognitive psychology, which have found that learners actively construct their understanding based on what they already know, contradict those theories.

The "pervasive influence" of the outmoded theories affects instructional practice, Ms. Shepard says. Rather than react defensively to critics of current tests who advocate new forms of assessment, as many measurement specialists have done, she writes in the October 1991 issue of Educational Researcher, the specialists should re-examine their tests in light of new knowledge about learning.

Contrary to popular notions about intelligence tests, schooling influences students' performance on I.Q. tests, a researcher from Cornell University has found.

In a review of decades of studies on I.Q. and educational attainment, Stephen J. Ceci found eight types of evidence--including the effects of summer vacation, of years of school missed because of illness, and of starting school late or dropping out--that show that i.Q.-test performance drops by between 0.25 point and 6 points for each year of schooling missed.

Mr. Ceci suggests that schooling aids performance on the intelligence tests by imparting information, by developing cognitive abilities, and by strengthening students' test-taking skills.

His study appears in the September issue of Developmental Psychology.

The National Science Foundation has created a separate directorate for the social and behavioral sciences.

Previously, research on such topics was funded through a division that also included biology, which Howard J. Silver, executive director of the Consortium of Social Science Associations, said cast a "long shadow" over the other disciplines.

"The long shadow has been lifted," Mr. Silver said. --R.R.

Vol. 11, Issue 09, Page 6

Published in Print: October 30, 1991, as Column One: Research
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