I admit. I am not a good teacher blogger . I prefer writing poems and watching beautiful things. But I do have my “professional” wonderings and one of them occurred today.
What is it? How can we assess humans in the first place?
I read many of Alfie Khon’s articles and agree on many of the points he makes. Empirically (or by experience and reflection), I have had the same ideas and I have been as fervent opponent of homework and grades as he is ever since I became a teacher.
Going to the heart of the matter now, I think that, regardless of the assessment type, it is subjective to quite an extent. Even if you vary and combine the assessment formats (portfolios, complex projects, tests etc), you will fail in knowing exactly how much a student has LEARNT. Let alone how DEEPLY he has learnt. Or HOW LONG his learning will stay with him/her. You can only find out what he can DO on that task in that specific moment of his learning journey.
There are two points I want to make:
1. Teacher to teacher variation
Given the same “product” (which can be a story, complex project, report etc) there will not be two teachers who will grade/assess it alike.
2. Personal bias/experience
Moreover, even YOU might grade it differently:
– at different points in your teaching career (I read about a similar experiment). That makes sense, because we evolve as teachers (or regress in some cases – burnout signal). Our approach to teaching and education shifts in time.
– depending on your students (the hallo effect). This cognitive bias appears almost involuntarily and you need to take a good step back to be aware of it. It can appear in regard to the students of the same class or students you had in different generations. Even kids can hardly manage it and I noticed that when they present final projects and have a peer-assessment session: if a kid with not so good a project presents his work after a very good /impressive one the tendency is to underestimate the latter.
On the other hand, if we did not assess students we would not know where they are on the learning (?) continuum. We could not plan for future teaching nor give them feedback so as to set own goals for learning.
So much for accuracy. Or our arrogance in using this word: “assessment”. I think we should add “our” (assessment).
What do you think?
*Photo credit: Morgue File, Anita Patterson