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Stanford researcher talks about the message standardized tests send to students about reading

September 6, 2017
How can teachers help students get the most out of reading literature? (Photo: Nova Jacobs/Flickr Creative Commons)
How can teachers help students get the most out of reading literature? (Photo: Nova Jacobs/Flickr Creative Commons)
In this episode of School’s In, Sarah Levine shares how and why she thinks English literature should be taught and tested differently.

Literature can have a profound impact on our view of the world and raise fundamental questions about the human experience. But posing multiple choice questions to students about what they’ve read is no way to assess their understanding, said Sarah Levine, assistant professor of education at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE).

“Those types of questions are basically hostile to literary reading,” Levine said in this episode of School’s In. “You cannot use multiple choice questions to ask kids to develop and articulate interpretations. You just can’t.”

Levine joined GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope in the studio to talk about the drawbacks of using standardized tests to evaluate students’ understanding of a work of literature. She also offered suggestions for how to teach and test literary reading in a way that helps students have a richer, more meaningful experience with books and poetry.  

“English teachers are really in a bind right now,” she said, in that they’re often forced to choose between either encouraging kids to enjoy reading or teaching them to think more “clinically” about a text. Each approach, she said, sends a different message to kids about what is valued in literary reading.

Listen from the link below, and find more episodes of School's In at the Stanford Radio main page. The show airs Saturdays on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121.