Student Self-Portraits as Test-Takers: Variations, Contextual Differences, and Assumptions about Motivation
by Anne Wheelock, Damian J. Bebell & Walt Haney — 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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