This week’s materials call into question traditional assessment models, from end-of-semester exams and teacher-driven assessments to the traditional grading structures found in classrooms from kindergarten to graduate school. We also have several examples in which educators have used socially mediated technologies to provide more personalized and meaningful learning, as well as teacher reflections on their efficacy. What do you think about what you’ve read this week? Do traditional grading structures no longer have a place in our current and future learning environments? Is it even possible to move away from what Batson calls our “current legacy structure of testing and evaluation“?
As I’ve noted in a previous post on educational trends:
Well over a half a century ago, education psychologist Benjamin Bloom developed a way to frame learning goals by identifying the key intellectual skills necessary for learning to occur. Still in use today, the 1990’s saw its modification to reflect an emphasis on the active nature of learning.1 What you see above is the latest iteration of this classification system. As you’ll note, the visualization of this learning taxonomy shows the lowest cognitive level occupying the largest amount of real estate with the higher cognitive domains of analyzing, evaluating and creating occupying the smallest amount. Interestingly, Bloom found in the 1950’s that 95% of test questions only asked students to think at the lowest level of learning, information retrieval.2
It appears, however, that for enduring understandings to take place, we need to provide our students the opportunity to engage with concepts in multiple contexts:
This week, as part of the process of brainstorming our individual classroom projects, we’ll consider the why, what and how of the assessment piece of our project. I’d like you to consider the following questions as you develop your learning experience:
- Firstly, what key skills, understandings, and/or attitudes do you want your students to possess as the result of this project?
- Secondly, what would serve as evidence of that mastery? This is where the assessment piece comes in. What performance tasks, projects, quizzes, self-assessments, observations or other evidence will show what your students know and are able to do?
- And lastly, what learning experiences could provide your students with the opportunity to gain that competency? This, then, would be the web 2.0 environment you would use.
These questions reflect the core concepts of a ‘backwards design’ approach to creating effective learning environments as outlined by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book, Understanding by Design. In this book, Wiggins and McTighe argue that only by first identifying the goals and assessments (the evidence of learning), and then working ‘backwards’ to design the syllabus and learning activities, can effective learning take place. And as evidenced-based learning outcomes become part of the higher educational landscape, it will be increasingly important for us to consider how, what and why we assess our students, our programs and our peers.