Another dot in the blogosphere?

Indicators are not evidence (Part 1)

Posted on: November 19, 2020

I went down a shallow rabbit hole after my RSS feed that revealed how a teacher confused engagement for learning.

This was her plan:

I had planned what I thought was a brilliant lesson that would feed my love for scrapbooking and get students to connect their learning about the early civilizations. I set up each table as a different cultural component of a civilization: government, geography, religion, economics, and education. There were magazines, research materials, colored pencils, scrapbooking paper, and other materials on each table. Students had to complete an activity by sharing and questioning each other.

When debriefed on her lesson, she was challenged with the question: Were they learning, or was it just “pretty”? When she looked at students reflections, she realised that they could remember the activities but not the content. She concluded that while the engaging activities might be vehicles of learning, they were not necessarily indicators of learning.

My blog will reveal how long I have been against the rhetoric on engagement, but I do have to question why the:

  • recall of content was the only measure of learning
  • sharing and peer teaching were not also measures of learning
  • products of learning were prioritised over the processes of learning

That said, I agree that lessons that look “pretty” because they seem active may come across as “engaging” while not offering much by way of learning. But I would not use the vehicle/indicator references.

Instead, I consider the activities as possible indicators of learning, e.g., time spent reading, quality of peer teaching, level of reflection. But all these are not evidence of learning as measured by a specific tool.

The tool might be a paper test, performance, community project, etc. Only when externalised and applied meaningfully is there evidence of learning of new information, attitudes, or skills.

This was my reflection of the first room down the rabbit hole of engagement, learning, indicators, and evidence. More on the same tomorrow in Part 2.

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