søndag den 2. august 2015

Data, Assessment and Learning

In a recent blog, I argued that each and every student must create data as an integrated and organic part of school work and that all grading must be based on said data. This raises several interesting questions, which I'll deal with in this blog:

  • How does the production of data interact with learning and the learning goals?
  • What kind of data?
  • How does one integrate the production of data in school work?
  • Why "grading"?

 And let's begin with the last. Some of us have to grade. Quite simply. We shouldn't grade more than we are legally or institutionally required to, but when we we are obligated to grade, we should always do so based on data. And it is our responsibility as teachers to offer every student a fair opportunity to create that data.

"...it is our responsibility as teachers to offer every student a fair opportunity to create that data."

In this context, it is important to state that data doesn't have to be numbers, it doesn't have to be quantifiable. Prose writing is data, a well-curated Padlet is data, a film shot and edited on an iPhone is data. Sure, the bubble test has its advantages. It self-corrects, it churns out numbers, it can be re-used, but what does it actually measure?! We should remember, I think, that grades mean a lot to the students. I have, actually, often been surprised at how much it means to them. Conversations with a large number of students have, for example, taught me that it is quite the norm to prioritize courses where they are close to the decisive grade, whereas courses where the decisive grade is one or more semesters away are put on hold or only given lip service. Grades in that way can be likened to the means of production, the base, in industrialized society. Or to be blunt: Grades run the game!

"Grades run the game!"

This doesn't mean that we should simply bow to the totemic powers of grades. What it does mean, on the other hand, is that we should make grades work for us! I am not necessarily particularly fond of the somewhat primitive behaviorism lurking behind all this, but given that grades do have such a strong hold on our students, turning the blind eye quite frankly seems irresponsible. We need to align three questions: What are the learning goals? What is the task? What kind of data do I need as teacher? And, really, these questions are complimentary questions of course design. The course can be all three things: learning goals, task, data. But it should function as complimentary aspects of the course, not as separate elements that are glued together.

If we keep these three questions in mind when designing courses, I believe we have a great opportunity to make grading work for us in the process of having our students work towards the 6 Cs of 21st century learning: Character building, creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and citizenship. And you just try fitting that into a bubble test!