Wednesday, January 27, 2010

AFL - not Assessing Facts Lots

What are we going to ask on our tests when students are
walking in with Google in their pockets?

David Warlick

I was working on a presentation connecting technology and Assessment for Learning after reading a blog post by Konrad Glogowski. His blog, blog of proximal development
often has interesting ideas on it, and he is wrestling with some of the big questions of Collegiate Renewal. Most recently, the connection between what technology does the classrooms and the role of assessment for learning have been merging in his thinking. I lifted this quotation from his blog:

As Michael Wesch recently argued,

All of this vexes traditional criteria for assessment and grades. This is the next frontier as we try to transform our learning environments. When I speak frankly with professors all over the world, I find that, like me, they often find themselves jury-rigging old assessment tools to serve the new needs brought into focus by a world of infinite information. Content is no longer king, but many of our tools have been habitually used to measure content recall. For example, I have often found myself writing content-based multiple-choice questions in a way that I hope will indicate that the student has mastered a new subjectivity or perspective. Of course, the results are not satisfactory. More importantly, these questions ask students to waste great amounts of mental energy memorizing content instead of exercising a new perspective in the pursuit of real and relevant questions (Wesch, 2009).

Wesch, M. (2009, January 7). From knowledgeable to knowledge-able: Learning in new media environments. Academic Commons.

Warlick's point regarding those mini computers we call cell phones is a valid one and Welch's point about how we assess connects in a critical way. For many teachers, testing is still an act of checking to see which invertebrates traits a student can correctly identify. I know I've given more than one exam where students had to define poetic devices.

The question of what is robust and compelling for student to learn shaped not only by what students will give their heads and hearts to (as my boss always says), but also by what things they need, given that the facts are already there.

There is an ongoing debate in educational technology circles about how much knowledge you need to be able to engage in media and information literacy. I actually happen to think you need quite a bit. But "testing" is one of the worst ways to see what students can do with information they know, and testing low-level factual recall is more than a little pointless.

When learning is shaped around real questions and assessed through an interactive process that is collaborative and designed to promote growth, then we actually have alignment between our technical reality, our teaching philosophy, and how we assess.

Now all we need is a mark book that can keep up new types of evidence and use specific descriptive feedback instead of numbers. . .

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