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Student Self-Portraits as Test-Takers: Variations, Contextual Differences, and Assumptions about Motivation


by Anne Wheelock, Damian J. Bebell & Walt Haney ó November 02, 2000

A study of students' drawings of themselves taking the MCAS, the Massachusetts high stakes test, reveals a considerable range of responses to high stakes testing among children. In this paper, we review the literature on motivation to learn and on students' responses to testing as a guide to reflecting on these drawings. We note that students' responses are inevitably idiosyncratic, depending on individuals' experiences, developmental maturity, and interpretation of test items. We consider the variations in responses of students in elementary and secondary grades and in urban and non-urban districts in light of variations in district testing, grade retention, and ability grouping policies. We suggest that policies that assume high stakes are necessarily to motivate students to take academics more seriously do not adequately account for students' attitudes and beliefs about testing and may actually backfire by reducing motivation for a substantial proportion of students, particularly among older and urban students.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 02, 2000
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10635, Date Accessed: 11/1/2014 12:35:28 AM

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About the Author
  • Anne Wheelock
    Independent Education Policy Writer & Researcher
    E-mail Author
    Anne Wheelock, an independent education policy analyst and writer, is author of Crossing the Tracks: How 'Untracking' Can Save America's Schools (1992) and Safe To Be Smart: Building a Culture for Standards-Based Reform in the Middle Grades (1998). She is also co-author (with Christina Capodilupo) of a research analysis of Massachusetts dropout rates in the era of high stakes testing, posted on line at http://www.fairtest.org/care/MCAS%20Alert%20Sept.html.
  • Damian Bebell
    Boston College
    E-mail Author
    Damian J. Bebell is a doctoral student at Boston College where he is employed at the Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Research (CSTEEP). His research interests include educational philosophy, alternative forms of assessment, and addressing student perspectives in education. His related work with the Massachusetts Teacher Test is on line at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n4/.
  • Walt Haney
    Boston College
    E-mail Author
    Walt Haney, Ed.D., Professor of Education at Boston College and Senior Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Testing Evaluation and Educational Policy (CSTEEP), specializes in educational evaluation and assessment and educational technology. He has published widely on testing and assessment issues in scholarly journals such as the Harvard Educational Review, Review of Educational Research, and Review of Research in Education and in wide-audience periodicals such as Educational Leadership, Phi Delta Kappan, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Washington Post. His recent work, "The Myth of the Texas Miracle in Education" can be found on line at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n41/. Also, a recent discussion of the gap between testing and technology in schools is available at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n19.html
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