Proposal: Issues of Standardized Testing

One of the biggest challenges composition instructors face is the way students initially approach writing. Most first-year/freshmen students are familiar with the five-paragraph essay, timed essay prompts and standardized writing. This type of writing tends to marginalize important aspects such as revision, reflection, brainstorming (as with many standardized test, students are NOT given any scratch paper to compose an outline or plan their ‘3 main points’) and portfolio assessment.

Instructors at the collegiate level have to do their best to decompose their writing styles within a limited time frame, but most students who do not spend a lot of time thinking about their own writing will continue to write this way. Perhaps composition is somehow winning the war, as news broke this week that in 2016, the SAT will make the essay portion of the test optional. But prior to these planned changes, students were taught to make up events while writing or given questions to answer that included fictional settings and characters, which in fact will not help students at the college level (sometimes there is no concern with factual accuracy, so these tests are encouraging students to make up events, as long as words fill up the blank pages!).

What I am proposing is a creating a video mash up that brings awareness to standardize testing/writing and how it can stifle creativity. I don’t think many know about the idea of teaching to the test and the issues that come along with the belief that students should retain the same exact information for one national (or state) test, regardless of thinking about a students’ background, nationality, or career aspirations/interests.

With this video I am not looking to end standardizing/prompt writing, but simply let others know there’s more that meets the eye when we practice ‘timed-essays’ in a classroom setting and issues that go along with high-school level writing. I could also raise awareness of how college officials and administrators rely on testing scores and numbers to decide whether an individual student should be accepted. Overall, I think this is a unique topic to explore, especially using multimodal communication.

I think my deep understanding of composition studies, along with my interest in pop culture (television, music, movies, celebrity) will allow me to blend the two worlds together in an interesting and compelling way.


About Christina Maxwell

I’m a young professional journalist with a dual B.A. degree in Radio-TV-Film and Journalism and I am currently working on my M.A. in Writing, specializing in Journalism and New Media Studies (both at Rowan University). Although my advanced degree allows me to have options in the future, for now, my main goal is finding a job in journalism. I am a journalist at heart. First hand knowledge, original reporting and precisive answers are what I strive for when I'm working. For the past two years, I have done freelance reporting with the Gloucester Township Patch, but my goal is to have a sustainable, consistent job in journalism.

One comment

  1. Hi Christina,

    I understand your desire to locate this proposal within your interests in composition, but this issue is not nuanced or complex or significant enough for what the assignment is asking you to do when it requests going outside your comfort zone. It is too safe–and very much done by many students (with varying approaches) resulting in similar videos that have images of kids in schools with #2 pencils out mashed with scenes from the “We Don’t Need No Education” portion of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

    So, I’d like you to submit a new proposal, really pushing yourself outside your comfort zone not only in terms of having to complete the assignment but in terms of the subject matter. I’m not saying you have to be made viscerally uncomfortable as you were with the drug mashup we watched, but that it challenges you to see the world in a new way. Like the Human Trafficking and Diamonds mashups on the assignment page–two mashups by undergrads that are approaching the level of sophistication I’m expecting of graduate students in terms of subject and approach.

    Please post a new proposal by Monday and tweet me when it’s online. Email me any questions you might have.


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