Readings Week Four: Assessment

I’d always heard “assessment” as a term at work, to assess how our online books and journals are performing and how they’re being used and received, by using Google Analytics and sales reports, if applicable (among other things). I haven’t encountered the concept in education before. The different methods of assessment were interesting, especially during the discussion of different communities idea about grades and competition in school (the Navajo not wanting to be singled out in class by having a “high achiever” bulletin board; the Inuit students being taught to learn not by talking in class, but by looking and listening).

I really liked the metaphor of the “rutted path” curriculum in this chapter of How People Learn: there are prescribed mile posts along the way from kindergarten to twelfth grade, to be mastered by time tested routine and not by reacting and observing the natural landscape that the concepts are found in. Alternatively, there is the “learning the landscape” view on curriculum. This requires recognizing where you are in the landscape, and learning your way around and finding resources in relation to where you are. The former sounds a lot more like my experience in K-12–the Chicago Math system, the obvious benchmarks required for each part of the semester, etc.

Both the readings this week talked about “formative assessment”, or the idea of giving feedback on works in progress to ensure that learners are understanding the material. I am always grateful for assignments that require turning in a rough draft, a proposal, an outline, bibliography etc. before the final product. It helps me make sure I’m on the right track and it also ensures that I won’t procrastinate until the  due date! In K-12 and throughout college, most of my teachers used peer evaluation as assessment. Reflecting on that, it didn’t seem very effective; comments would either be very short and unhelpful or only positive, with no constructive criticism.

Now I am left contemplating how to put this into work as a librarian. It brings me back to our discussion in the first class about connecting to prior knowledge; how to find this out of our users without making them feel overanalyzed or fearful of looking “bad” in front of an expert or authority-type figure like a librarian? How to put checks for understanding into our instructional design, as it was called in the ADDIE model?

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2 thoughts on “Readings Week Four: Assessment

  1. I really appreciated the landscape versus rutted path metaphor, as well. It’s pretty clear that my K-12 experience was very much on that rutted path. Even though I had some pretty spectacular teachers, we still weren’t able to stray far from that path and explore the landscape, so to speak, because of standardized testing and the expectations that go along with that type of assessment. It’ll be interesting in class to hear about others’ experiences with this, as well.

    • Yeah I’ll be interested to see how discussion in class goes too. There are so many dimensions to classroom assessment and approaches to teaching that things that at first may appear black and white quickly get blurred as you dig into all of the different advantages and drawbacks of each.

      Having participated in both very conventional and very unconventional education environments, I can see arguments for both, but I also have very strong views about moving beyond the “rutted path” as it were to allow for greater flexibility and individuality in education.

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