Friday, December 26, 2008

Good Will To All - Including Learners

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allGood will to all - including learners
Okay, okay! I admit it. I’m hooked. I’ve become a dyed-in-the-(New Zealand)-wool blogger, posting on Boxing Day. But I’m only responding to another dyed-in-the-wool blogger who posted on Christmas Day.

René Meijer's thoughtful and reflective post, My Learning Disabilities, is a response to Tony Karrer's, What Did You Learn About Learning 2008. René's post struck a chord with me that was almost a peal of Christmas bells.

He spoke of authentic and valid assessment, and posited that most people do not learn by engaging with the written word. I agreed, and I left a comment on his post. It ran something like this:

You say you understand that we only really learn by ‘interacting’.
I say, we need to define what’s meant by ‘interacting’. By my definition, you are correct.

Learning by interacting:

Others may have a different idea of what ‘interacting’ is all about and still agree with you. For instance, I believe that it is possible for interaction to take place when a learner is reading from a book. I know, I know, but this sort of interaction is indeed a high level thinking and learning skill, not often practiced by most learners.

You go on to ask, “How do we verify that learning has taken place, if we aren’t sure how (to) create authentic and valid assessments for the competencies we are not aspiring to instil?”

I say that the only way we can be sure that learning has taken place IS by authentic and valid assessment. I’m not criticising here - I’m concurring.

Assessing that learning has happened:

Thing is, our assessments may well show us that learning has taken place, but may not really validly measure to what extent it has occurred. This is not so much a problem for the learner as the teacher, but it is often placed as a burden on the learner. I think that this action is wrong.

But if I can put my glitch in here, assessment is all very well, but considering that it doesn’t always indicate what we (as assessors) think it should (in others words, it isn’t authentic and valid) we should restrict its use for us (as teachers) alone.

Assess the teaching not the learning:

That is to say that if it is neither authentic nor valid, it should NOT be used to assess the learner, especially if it is used as a measure of what the learner knows - more so because there is a difference between what is known and what was learnt. Note the use of tense in that last sentence.

My preference is that assessment should be used (exclusively) by and for the teacher. It should be confidential, between the learner and the teacher if such sharing is necessary. But it should be used by the teacher to validate that teaching has been effective, not that learning has taken place.

To use non-authentic, non-valid assessments against the learner is most unfair, especially if we realise that it is neither authentic nor valid. Most times it is not, and there are many reasons for this.

What's learnt on the learning pathway:

One of them, often not recognised or admitted, is when the particular assessment method applied fails the learner, by simply not recording what the learner has achieved along the learning pathways.

Extreme examples of this are an assessment test that returns a zero mark or a standard assessment criterion that reports a not achieved. Such instances can be interpreted as indicating that the learner has learnt nothing at all – a very unlikely scenario.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Rene Meijer said...

Kia ora Ken :)

You make some good points, and I wholeheartedly agree with what you say.

There are some challenges around authentic assessment: It is often difficult to attach a quantitative and reliable measurement to authentic activities, and they tend to be labor intensive. The logical conclusion from this combination is that you risk ending up with a very few unreliable measurements of high validity. That's would be creating the inverse problem of where we are now: a large number of reliable measurements with a very low validity. A change, but not yet a solution.

Using assessments in a confidential way as you suggest is great for formative assessment. But when we assess summatively, you cannot ignore the fact that this assessment has an external function that requires trust in the accreditor. If all assessment is confidential all the perceived value of someones achievement depends solely on the trust that the rest of the world has in you, the teacher. While you could argue that they should have this trust in you personally, I think practically it will only suffice in a very rare number of cases.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai René!

It is a real pleasure to welcome you to my blog.

Your point about summative assessment is appropriate and valid. But you will know that formative assessment does not necessarily have to involve the teacher at all.

Of course, I said that it was my preference that (summative) assessment be made exclusively by the teacher and that it is confidential between teacher and learner. But in fact, in my job I often have to summatively assess learners for qualifications.

My preference is that this is not carried out by the teacher, but I still have to accept the responsibility given to me to carry out such a task. Under the criteria for particular assessments, I sometimes find it difficult to perform an authentic and valid assessment.

But if such assessment was carried out by a third party, it should in no way detract from the trust that anyone may have in the teacher. It is universally accepted that examination by an 'external' assessor or even by peer assessment is a valid method that does not have to involve an assessment made by the teacher.

In my Utopia :-) the teacher uses summative assessment only as a means to assist the learner with possible further study - not for any other purpose.

Thanks for bringing to my attention the valid points you make here. I thoroughly appreciate the time you took to present them to me.

Catchya later