What is our ultimate goal for assessing?

As a country we need to determine what is more important – the process of how we do things or is it the outcome, the performance, the speed, and the number of errors?  Or is it a combination of both?

Do the tests drive us toward performance goals by setting up comparisons-school against school, teacher against teacher, student against student-and focusing on a single performance?

I just completed reading the book, Opening Minds, by Peter Johnston.  He points out the following, “If the American dream, has to do with the pursuit of happiness, neglecting broader aspects of children’s development will not help. Failure to attend to children’s moral and social development will lead neither to happiness nor to economic security.”  He gives many examples of educational research, such as “our singular focus on individual academic achievement will not serve children or their academic development well, either in the short term or long term.  Intelligence, creativity, and caring are all properties of communities as much as of individuals, and teaching children with that in mind will result in individual achievement but also collaborative achievement and accompanying social and societal benefits.”  Peter Johnston goes on to state more research findings and studies.  He states, “Making meaning is good. Doing meaningful things is best.”

After reading his book, it really made me reflect on my own experiences with education.  How did I learn and how did I use this experience as a teacher?  I hope to use what I learned from Johnston when presenting information or engaging students in discussions or dialogue.  I also need to be more aware in my own teaching environment to determine if I am supporting a dynamic-learning frame vs. a fixed-performance frame of learning.

I want to leave you with an example of another type of assessment, conducted by the National Educational Monitoring Project (NEMP), New Zealand’s equivalent of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In NEMP, they use test items like giving a group of four fourth grade students a set of books.  Their job is to act as the library committee and individually, then collectively, decide which books the committee should buy.  The student group is videotaped and scored with a rubric.  Wouldn’t this type of assessment help to define democratic principles, or how we live together in the real world?

What are our ultimate goals for assessment?


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