Sunday, September 21, 2014

Convoluted

Learning is a messy and convoluted undertaking.  It is a process, not an event.  Learning occurs in fits and starts, not in some linear trajectory.  The richest form of learning occurs within context, not isolated as a concept or set of facts dissociated from the life of the learner. 

Over the last three decades we (the general public) have gradually acquiesced to the notion that learning  (and thus school quality) can be discerned on easily graded, high-stakes, multiple-choice tests.  It makes for a nice, clean “score” by which to rank students, but it tells us precious little about students' ability to think critically and deeply, and to transfer learning.

The richest learning cannot be accurately assessed by standardized tests, which are, at best, oversimplified instruments used to measure oversimplified cognitive processes.

The best teachers I know, and the best schools I know, have purposefully de-emphasized those erroneous measures of learning and have, instead, embarked upon locally developed measures of learning.  Are they nice and clean?  Nope.  Are they easy to administer?  Nope.  Do they sort and sift students by age or grade level?  Nope.

So, why go to the trouble?  

Because the locally chosen standards, and the measures created to assess student progress toward them, are relevant and meaningful to the current lives of the students.  Moreover, they're relevant to the future success, happiness, and productivity of students once they become adults.  Now THAT is meaningful education. 

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