Avoiding the Vague and Unassessable

Inquiry learning, self-directed learning, individualised learning, learner-driven curriculum and negotiated curriculum are all terms that overlap and mean slightly different things in different educational contexts.  Somewhere in the zone where all of these ways of teaching overlap lies the kind of teaching that I do.

I know how I assess progress in these learners, but is it best practice?

Even if what I do is pretty good practice, does customised learning create customised teaching and customised assessment and evaluation to the extent that a school-wide method of assessing student progress just wouldn’t fit? On the other hand, if we can’t all assess in the same way, is it too vague? Where do concepts like validity, reliability and even objectivity come into all of this? How do we compare the progress of a child who learns one thing in depth with that of a child who learns five things more superficially? How do we compare the learning of a child who makes a complex animation, developing many new ICT skills, to present an average understanding of the life cycle of a butterfly with the learning of a child who uses traditional pen and paper methods to explain a sophisticated understanding of the life cycles of ferns and mosses? Once we introduce a significant amount of choice into learning, is there a point at which the diversity of things learnt is so great that many teachers feel progress is unassessable? Links and further ponderings follow:

This is Carol Fertig’s blog at Prufrock Press. The links are really helpful, but it is interesting that many of the journal articles are about adult learners. I see portfolios and reflective journals as very helpful tools to show progress for kids who have access to choices in the way they learn, and to find articles describing the way I do it usually leads me into material about adult learners as well.

Carol has another blog entry on Inquiry-based learning that led me to this page on assessment. This discusses the importance of “feedback from students to the teacher regarding the degree to which … objectives have been achieved.”

Yes! I work that way.

But should this be No!? – Student self-assessment can’t be valid and reliable. They’re only children! They’re all different and see themselves in different ways!

I think the only thing close to a real answer lies in the quality of the guidance we offer children as they reflect on their own work. The questions we ask them, the models we show them, the degree with which we encourage them to engage in authentic tasks which can succeed or fail in real terms – all these things play a part in whether the “reflection” is seen in a warped mirror or a true one, and whether the child notices the relevant details as they peer through the metacognitive looking glass.

More links and musings will follow in due course.


About Mary St George

I teach in gifted education, both online and face-to-face.
This entry was posted in education, gifted, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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