Last Thursday, I had the privilege of presenting my thoughts and ideas at the ECOO Conference 2012. My presentation was geared around my assessment and evaluation methods and madness.
I was proud to speak in front of such an intelligent, engaged audience who asked so many great questions and provided some varied perspectives. I have embedded below the slides from my presentation.
The conference moved this year from one where the tool was the principal focus to the pedagogical shift taking shape in education. Obviously, I like this move. I think too often we spend time worrying about the what and how of teaching, and too little time is spent wrestling with the why. This conference enabled that wrestling.
However, it also enabled something else for me, it forced me to focus my thinking around assessment, which ironically I spoke about. I realized, with more clarity than I had before, that assessment is right now the linchpin to the shift in education.
John Seely Brown, Michael Fullan, and even Nora Young, all addressed the shift in instruction, but none of them offered the insight into the shift in assessment and I fear that is underlooked.
Frankly, assessment and evaluation may be the structure of the system that slows down change the most.
I see it as there are two main cogs in education, instruction and assessment, and while instruction is slowly coming to life, assessment is still in a state of disrepair. It’s rusted over and will take some serious elbow grease to get it moving again.
And we can’t disregard it.
We’ve made cosmetic changes to evaluation, however, at the end of the day will universities and colleges accept our students if they haven’t jumped through the hoops of GPAs and averages. What then becomes of the innovation, creative problem solving, and imagination?
The ECOO experience has focused in my interest in assessment and evaluation, it has left me with more questions than answers and has enabled me to connect with other educators asking those same questions. I can’t wait to see where this takes me.
Do I have to? How many times do our students jump through hoops to prove their worth? How many times
If we are looking at a learning environment that is distributed, asynchronous, collaborative and ultimately, personalized, how and why are we evaluating students?
It is constantly suggested that teachers are moving into the role of “facilitators” of learning, and “co-learners”, how then do we hold a position that ‘can’ evaluate? Now, I understand the political and social pressure to maintain status quo when it comes to giving a grade, but isn’t the nature of this educational shift removed the standardization, including what it means to be a proficient Grade 11 English student, for example?
To take that further, how do we know when students are “ready” to further their learning? “Ready” to progress into University? If learning looks different for each student, is there any common ground?
All in all, we need to re-think evaluation.
I had a wonderful teaching moment today. Excellent because it was not at all what I wanted. Fulfilling because my students did the complete opposite of what I wanted. They refused to stand up. It was beautiful. Let me explain.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, my principle focus in my classes so far is based around building community. Building a social framework where every voice matters, where I am just another member of that community. We are a community of learners where our collective brainpower is better than any one individual.
This morning, first thing Monday morning, my class was low energy. Real low energy, it was palpable. As I am apt to do, I say in my excited, enthusiastic voice, “Alright, everyone stand up.” I do this anytime we are feeling low, bored, distracted. We usually complete an activity, game, or interlude. I take that game and improvise, wield and dance my way to connecting it with what we are doing in class. So, today, I asked, “Alright, everyone up.”
Usually, my invitation to stand is met by a few groans and rolled eyes, maybe even reluctance on the part of a few students, but eventually, everyone is standing.
They looked around, noticed that others weren’t standing, and stayed sitting. After a few more insistences that people stand, the energy was building. Laughter. A sense of common rebellion had started.
I tried to chip away their solidarity by focusing on one student, whispering (loud enough for everyone to hear) that they should be a leader, not be a follower. I tried one after the other. None would budge. It was brilliant. They acted together. They acted in solidarity.
As enthusiastic as ever, I turned this collective behaviour into the lesson, which we built upon and ended up having a rich discussion about our rights, both collective and individual, and how a student might use their right to achieve their own success. How we are stronger together then we are apart.
This registered with me as a major victory. I see this as inspiration for the rest of the semester. They found out that today they have a voice in their education. I want them to see that. What some teachers would call insubordination, I see as value. I see as substance. I see as learning.
Especially on a day where we are all casting our vote. Engaged students are students ready to learn.
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