Friday, April 11, 2014

the displacement of expertise...

I have written about this subject before as it is one of those recurrent themes associated with schooling, and the measurement of school performance. At one time, teachers were trained as observers. They were to notice things about the kids that helped them to understand the child and what his or her learning interests and aptitudes offer growth. For instance, my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Mummert noted that I would be a good writer, though at the time I had no interest in it.

But the teacher's powers to observe can ring true and be played out in the life of the child.

Standardized testing on the other hand, places the observation and measure of student learning in the hands of statistical experts, who may actually know more about math than about children, and certainly more about the child as an abstraction rather than as real living children with interests and motivations of their own.

The odd thing is that a trained teacher can walk into a classroom and observe a few things, particularly if those things are outside the norm. For instance if all the children are taking part in an animated discussion or actively working on a project in collaboration with others. More normal in most classrooms would be for the vast majority of the students to sit sullenly at desks in the back of the classroom.

Our society has made an artificial construct of the learning adventure. And children know the difference between school based learning and real life.

I have in the past, proposed a Beaufort Scale of learning, in which a simple measure would displace our dependence on standardized testing (or any kind of artificial test at all) as our measures of school performance and student success. This scale is important for a variety of reasons. First, it would provide a simple means for students to gauge their own engagement in learning. Secondly, it would provide a frame of reference for parents through which to measure school performance and monitor their own decisions about schools. Third, it would provide the means for teachers to assess their own classroom performance, and effectiveness.

Where there's joy of learning, excellence follows.

We had a question come up this week with our ISACS visiting team. They could see the joy of learning. They saw clearly that we are hands-on and hearts engaged, from one end of the school to the other. But they asked, how do you measure and provide evidence beyond what we see in the classroom? If we begin to fathom the observable expression of joy in learning as one of those important markers of student success, you can see that assessment based on observable expression of joy might begin to actually mean something.

Today in my wood shop, I am once again trying to catch up on making boxes. I am nearing the point of hinging and assembly.

Make, fix and create...

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