Posted on Feb. 15, 2012 | by Sam Williamson
Qualification not Elimination
When we think about the tests of God, most of us shudder. Yet I believe that they can be a key to Hope and Joy. Let me explain.
I began flying lessons in 1997. These lessons taught me to take off and land, to navigate using aviation charts, and to communicate with air traffic control.
I particularly liked learning to land.
On my second flight, my instructor Jayne pulled the throttle to idle and announced that my engine had just died. She asked what I was going to do. Throttling her was not an option because I hadn't yet learned to land. But I was strongly tempted.
Soon a pattern emerged. She'd kill the engine, I'd want to kill her, and we'd practice standard engine-restart procedures, and I'd look for a place to land. Then we would circle down to the landing site until Jayne said we would have made it (or not). Then she'd re-throttle the engine, we'd climb, and we'd review what I had done.
Jayne drilled the engine-out procedures so thoroughly into me that I could have done them in my sleep, though I never tried.
Two Types of Tests.
Jayne taught me to fly through a series of tests. The nature of these tests-repetition and reflection-taught me to fly. Educators call these tests Formative Tests. They are educational methods that train us in the midst of the test, such as my flying instructor's engine-out surprises.
Each time Jayne killed my engine it was a test, but the test itself trained me to handle emergencies safely and confidently. Formative Tests teach us today how to avoid disqualification tomorrow.
However, when most of us think of tests, we picture Summative Tests. Summative Tests measure how much we have already learned, such as college entrance exams (the ACT or SAT), midterms, and finals.
While Formative Tests are designed to qualify us for the future, one could say that Summative Tests are designed to disqualify us, as in "My SAT score was low so I failed to get into Harvard."
Why is this distinction so important? Because understanding the difference between Summative and Formative Tests is the key to joy or despair. It is the difference between midday-sun and midnight-darkness. Frankly, ...