Another dot in the blogosphere?

Question the model

Posted on: November 27, 2009

It’s almost the end of a long teaching semester. For reasons too long and boring to mention, some of my colleagues and I had to start next semester’s teaching this semester.

The two things that usually happen at the semester’s end are I fall ill and I think about what to do next. So I type now before the flu completely takes over!

One thing that doesn’t usually happen at the end of semester is a huge grading load to process during the break and before the second half of the course resumes next year. This is why I found Siemen’s recent comments on grading and evaluation particularly relevant. Some snippets:

Grading is a waste of time. We only do it in schools and universities. It’s a sorting technique, not truly an evaluation technique. Iterative and formative feedback is what’s really required for learning.

Agreed! Our teacher education university is still in sorting mode but for reasons that are no longer relevant. Why? First, they are selected by interviews (coarse sorting). Second, a few bad apples that beat this filter or the trainees who cannot handle teaching will drop out on their own (self sorting). Third, the sorting is only based on academic results. If anyone wants to sort them out, do so along the lines of their values and attitudes because they must be role models and lifelong learners (yes, values and attitudes can be measured). Lastly, even after they are sorted, teacher trainees graduate and end up in schools irrespective of their grades. It is not as if A-grade teachers end up in some schools and C-grade teachers end up in another. So why sort at all?

Siemens concludes with:

The authors of the HASTAC post are not trying to do away with grading (as I would suggest we should). They are trying to use technology to make grading more “modern” or “in line” with society’s needs today. I think that’s exactly the wrong way to go about it. Question the model, don’t modernize it.

Thought-provoking and something I thoroughly agree with. If you consider the concepts of assessment of, for and as learning, I’d argue that most of what we do is, at best, only assessment of learning. Furthermore, assessment is just a number. Unlike evaluation, the value of that number is not made clear.

So what’s on my agenda? This year my guiding principle as I facilitated the ICT course was to get my teacher trainees to use what their students were already using in terms of technology. Next year my approach will likely be “question the model, don’t modernize it”.

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