Obsession with assessment
My last post, Got Map, was quite long as I grappled with the notion of how the “narrative of school” keeps us stuck. I’m sure this will continue to be a thread as I abandon the old map dictating “what school looks like” in favor of finding a new path by “following the learning“.
Assessment has been on my mind a lot these days as every public school educator I know complains bitterly about learning completely shutting down for testing. The stories they tell are unbelievable assaults on common sense. And, they are disturbing. I can’t help but feel outrage on behalf of the students who pay the price for this stupidity.
When did our collective focus shift from the learning to assessment? More importantly, how can we be free to evolve our understanding of what learning looks like in a rapidly changing world if we are obsessed with assessment? The tail is truly wagging the dog!
Assessment keeps us focused on how well we are following the map. If that map is wrong, we are screwed.
Focusing on learning frees us to recalculate and find new paths that make more sense in context to the real world.
The moment this became crystal clear to me was when I was caught off guard while presenting at GLS in 2011. After explaining how I used LEGO Universe to help young students develop healthy and safe online norms, I was asked about assessment. ASSESSMENT?? I was not focused on assessment! I was focused on finding a new way for students to learn about online safety as “TEACHING” it was not working.
I was playing around with the notion that if I actually used the technology that the kids were using outside of school, we might figure out how to model and practice citizenship in school. How can I assess something before I have created it? Just as students need space to learn, teachers need the space to experiment and the freedom to find new paths when the old ones turn into dead ends. Think about it. Would you want your doctors to be stuck using a medical procedure proven effective in the 70’s even if advances in medicine made better options available?
So what happened at GLS when I was asked about assessment? My teacher filter failed and what came out of my mouth shocked me… but it was an absolutely honest response. I said, “I don’t give a shit about assessment. I’m a teacher, I KNOW what learning looks like.” It almost felt like blasphemy saying it out loud. However, it was also strangely liberating. The woman who asked the question found me after the session. I braced myself to face the harsh criticism I knew was coming for the heresy and the cursing. Instead, I was flabbergasted to meet a like-minded soul sister. Michelle King is The Learning Instigator and it’s a privileged to follow her learning… and to learn as she constantly recalculates!
I know there are others out there who are working to “Stop the Stupid“. Their voices are rising. Where is YOUR obsession? Where’s your voice?
Addendum March 4, 2014: After a friend read this post, they pointed out that this was ironic given that I was obsessed with assessment… formative assessment, that is. That gave me a pause for thought, and a good laugh! Here is my follow up: Know Learning.