Whole-Person Approach to Testing

Learning Objectives

  • Describe whole person approach to testing

What is Whole Person Approach to Testing?

Just because you are facing a major exam in your class doesn’t mean everything else in your life comes to a stop. Perhaps that’s somewhat annoying, but that’s reality. Allergies still flare up, children still need to eat, and you still need to sleep. You must see your academic life as one segment of who you are—it’s an important segment, but just one aspect of who you are as a whole person. For example, Neela tries to turn off everything else when she has exams coming up in her nursing program, which is pretty often. She ignores her health, puts off her family, tries to reschedule competing work tasks, and focuses all her energy on the pending exam. On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable approach, but if she becomes really sick by ignoring a minor head cold, or if she misses an important school deadline for one of her children, Neela risks making matters worse by attempting to compartmentalize so strictly. Taking care of her own health by eating and sleeping properly; asking for help in other aspects of her busy life, such as attending to the needs of her children; and seeing the big picture of how it all fits together would be a better approach. Pretending otherwise may work sporadically, but it is not sustainable for the long run.

A whole-person approach to testing means that we understand ourselves within the broader context of our lives, which are often filled with many responsibilities, circumstances, and unexpected events that we need to balance with our school work. This whole-person understanding means that we attempt to balance achieving our best in school with the time and energy necessary to be present for other events in our lives. A whole-person approach to testing takes a lot of organization, scheduling, and attention to detail, but the life-long benefits make the effort worthwhile.

Establishing Realistic Expectations for Test Situations

Would you expect to make a perfect pastry if you’ve never learned how to bake? Or paint a masterpiece if you’ve never tried to work with paints and brushes? Probably not. But often we expect ourselves to perform at much higher levels of achievement than that for which we’ve actually prepared. If you become very upset and stressed if you make any score lower than the highest, you probably need to reevaluate your own expectations for test situations. Striving to always do your best is an admirable goal. Realistically knowing that your current best may not achieve the highest academic ratings can help you plot your progress.

Realistic continuous improvement is a better plan because people who repeatedly attempt challenges for which they have not adequately prepared for and understandably then fail (or at least do not achieve the desired highest ranking) often start moving toward the goal in frustration. They simply quit. Realistic continuous improvement doesn’t mean you settle for mediocre grades or refrain from your challenges. It means you become increasingly aware of yourself and your current state and potential future. Know yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, and be honest with yourself about your expectations.

Understanding Accommodations and Responsibilities

As with so many parts of life, some people take exams in stride and do just fine. Others may need more time or change of location or format to succeed in test-taking situations. With adequate notice, most faculty will provide students with reasonable accommodations to assist students in succeeding in test situations. If you feel that you would benefit from receiving these sorts of accommodations, first speak with your instructor. You may also need to talk to a student services advisor for specific requirements for accommodations at your institution.

If you need accommodations, you are responsible for understanding what your specific needs are and communicating your needs with your instructors. Before exams in class, you may be allowed to have someone else take notes for you, receive your books in audio form, engage an interpreter, or have adaptive devices in the classroom to help you participate. Testing accommodations may allow for additional time on the test, the use of a scribe to record exam answers, the use of a computer instead of handwriting answers, as well as other means to make the test situation successful. Talk to your instructors if you have questions about testing accommodations.

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whole-person approach: a view of testing that considers our student role within the broader context of our other roles in life such as caregiver, employee, athlete, homemaker, etc., ideally producing a healthy and sustainable balance