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The opposite of standardised testing works

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Australia has had 10 years of NAPLAN and the wash up is that standards haven’t really budged, so what now, more testing? Maybe test the test, or the teachers. Or maybe change the way we’re testing.

The thing about standardised tests is that they’re very good at identifying shortcomings but not very good at identifying what an individual does well. Praise is a more powerful agent than criticism.

By asking a simple but powerful question: What if we studied what was right with people versus what's wrong with people? Don Clifton, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, pioneered strength based psychology, the idea being that people develop by focusing on their unique natural talents, not by dwelling on their weaknesses.

Some 18 million-plus people around the world have identified their strong suits with CliftonStrengths, a 60-minute online assessment that reveals a person's innate and unique combination of talents from a taxonomy of 34 CliftonStrength themes.

The test is for each and about each – the intent is to develop an idea of what their strengths are as an individual rather than where they sit in a league table. Every question gives a different answer, identifying what is unique and good in the individual.

Standardised testing is designed to have every student arrive at the same correct answer to a question while CliftonStrengths provides every student with a unique answer, what’s right and good about them.

Most standardised tests are summative in nature; they are designed for accountability at the school, district, state and national levels. They typically do not provide individualised feedback to students, except for a single score. CliftonStrengths is formative in nature; it is designed to give each person unique feedback.

Standardised tests measure convergent thinking – arriving at the same correct answer to a problem. CliftonStrengths encourages divergent or creative thinking – generating a number of solutions to a problem (e.g., using a combination of talents in various situations).

The test works best along with advice and coaching from teachers, parents and fellow students.

The 18 million plus people who have been exposed to CliftonStrengths report that it has had a significant impact on their lives: they’re six times as likely to be engaged at work, 7.8% more productive in their role, three times as likely to have an excellent quality of life and six times as likely to do what they do best every day.

Those statistics are from the corporate world which is heavily engaged with the program, more than 90% of the Fortune 500 companies use CliftonStrengths.

Dynamic, strength based schools have been created with the program where the students and staff are able to identify and play to their own strengths, where teachers encourage students to do what they do best rather than clamber over one another to meet the requirements of a standardised test.  

When every student learns what’s unique and good about themselves, they can apply their talents to succeed in school and when they leave.

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