Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shouldn't This Count As Data?


You don't need a grade book to prove that these kids are learning.  There isn't a short-cycle assessment that captures what is captured in these photos.  However, this is a short-cycle assessment, 


The mistake we make is that we try to translate what we observe about student learning into numbers and letters.  Ralph Waldo Emerson identified this in 1837 when he wrote, "Yes hence arises a grave mischief.  The sacredness which attaches to the act of creation, - the act of though, - is transferred to the record.  ...as love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue."


This push for data, this collective craze for measurement, this constant short-cycle testing, it all falls short of what can be learned by looking at these students consider a real problem, with real stakes, and with real curiosity.  Are we even talking about curiosity anymore? 


Maybe we've been relying on quantitative measurement of learning because we didn't have easy access to the tools that capture qualitative assessment.  In an age in which photos are free and video is easy, why aren't we turning to them as evidence of learning instead of our latest scores spit out by the Scantron machine?


Formative assessment is designed for both the learner and the teacher, and therefore, in a way, formative assessment is a conversation.  The digital record we are compiling of our learning as we engage in The WikiSeat project is a valid type of formative assessment, and we're increasingly sure of our students' ability to develop the kind of mindset that will serve them well on the more formal tests that purport to measure our students' capacity.

- Sean Wheeler



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