Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Benefits of Tests

I just gave my first test in my world religions course. As I handed it out, I could sense the anxiety of my students. They asked several questions about the test: would I give partial credit? could they earn extra credit? how soon would it be graded?

I told them my theory about tests: they are occasions to engage the material in a deeper way. I'm not interested in students memorizing facts, but in thinking more deeply about what we've covered. To think deeply about something, we need to spend time with it and reflect upon it. Without the motivation of a test, I said, you might not spend enough time with your notes and books for deep learning to occur.

A test in a course is an analogy for the tests we face in life. In life, we face many different kinds of tests: tragedy, disappointment, failure, suffering, crisis, loss. Such tests can challenge our faith and try our souls. To "pass" these tests often means surviving them with our faith, hope and love intact.

Without life-tests I don't believe we would reflect as deeply on life's meaning and purpose. Neither would we grow as much. Just as with my students, none of us welcome these tests, but they are inevitable. To prepare for life-tests means to strengthen our connection with the Source of strength and courage so that, when they come, we will not only survive them we will emerge from them stronger.

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