Beyond Test Scores and Retention of Information

There are two terms that I have seen thrown around which mean a lot more than how they are being used; learning and achievement. The reason these two come to mind is due to their direct connection to one another in the context of education.

If you dig a bit, when the word “learning” is being used, it is used instead of “retention and regurgitation.” If we use the term “learning” in this way, are we focused more on the depth of knowledge, understanding, and application, or are we preparing students for a high-stakes game of Jeopardy? This is not to say that retention of knowledge isn’t essential, but to say that the type of learning we are trying to achieve in school goes beyond memory and regurgitation.

Achievement, on the other hand, is often used instead of “scores,” most often received on test scores. I am not against tests in school, but I am against using the word “achievement” to equate to test scores only.

The connection between the two words is that “achievement” of deep “learning” is hard to measure, and what learning is necessary and essential to one person can be different to another. We talk about collaboration all of the time in education, but are we looking for a group of people that all think the same way and have the same abilities to work together, or are we looking for groups that bring different viewpoints, experiences, and knowledge to the table? Would you have an admin team in your school that all thought the same, or would you rather them bring different things to the table, more likely knowing that they will appreciate different skills and viewpoints of their staff?

So what do “achievement” and “learning” really mean? I could google a definition here and copy and paste it, but that is not the point of the post. The definition of a word often means less than the way we use the word. For example, if you are giving a report on how you are students are doing in your school and use the word “achievement” or “student achievement”, but then go on to only list test scores, the definition of “achievement” doesn’t matter as much as what you are showing and telling your community.

The point of the post is that we need to question what these words mean when they are being thrown around in lieu of “retention” and “scores,” and also when they aren’t. School communities (not just teachers and administrators, but students and caregivers) would benefit from talking about these two terms (learning and achievement) and decide what they mean and what that looks like in their organization. These words are used all the time and if all they mean is “retention” and “scores,” we are limiting our students and our schools.

Source: George Couros