Sunday, May 29, 2005

Theories from the Other Side

All in all, had a surprisingly good-natured conversation with a fully operational teacher yesterday. Amongst other things, he proposed a radically different way of assessing learning. The HEers in the group bit their tongues and conceded the point that assessing such a thing should be deemed a) necessary, b) desirable, c) possible, because we liked him and we wanted to hear what he was going to say next.

What he said was that instead of measuring outcomes through marking test papers, teachers should assess learning by measuring the "disposition to learn" ie: you measure the pupil's engagement with the subject. Whilst we tacitly agreed that the quality of learning is predicated upon how actively the mind of the learner is engaged, we let it pass that the process of testing engagement would appear to be as prone to inaccuracy and subjectivity as measuring learning through outcomes. He was sort of cute and we still didn't have the least urge to hit him. Plus we wanted to know what he was going to say next.

He then proposed that the assessor should also measure the adult's engagement with the pupil's engagement. Given that this may involve a measure of self-assessment, perhaps this is the most practicable part of his proposal, but even here we would have to accept that huge chunks of ourselves are not available to objective scrutiny, even with the best will in the world. However, we let this pass. He was engaging and funny and we wanted to see what he was going to say next.

What he said next was that good learning is predicated upon well-being, with which, of course, the HEers amongst us once again wholeheartedly agreed. However he was of the persuasion that it is necessary to attempt to measure well-being in order to maximise it. Hmmm..

As the pig farmer said to the butcher, "you don't fatten a pig by weighing it". So instead we will just have to get on with maximising well-being in our kids...which incidentally probably means that I shouldn't have exhausted mine quite so much over the last week.

Desperately hard to know when to stop sometimes: I think they deliberately try to confuse me: they can look totally exhausted at 15.00 hours and then perk up at 17.00 hours and not go to bed until beyond midnight. All way too confusing, and not simply in the matter of assessment! But much more importantly, that four hours of non-stop trying to prevent toddler falling over on the ice rink nearly killed me.

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