Monday, November 15, 2010

The Student Body as Transportation Devices

A student's body is not simply a transportation device for their number two pencils.

And yet, if you speak with most people about how they measure learning or what they mean when they talk about student achievement, you'll quickly find that what they are really talking about are numbers.

While it is true that numbers may impress, they conceal more than they reveal.

What we find is largely dependent on what we are looking for and where we are willing to look for it. If our premise is to reduce learning to numbers so that we can play around with the mean, median and mode on graphs and tables that show value-added improvements that are data-informed, then we run the predictable and inevitable risk of trivializing the entire education endeavor.


  1. Hey Joe,

    Speaking of transportation devices, I wrote a satirical post about standardized tests and the driver's test that we have to pass.

    I still think it's insane that when asked how to assess knowledge, very few people ever suggest we watch students construct it and then watch them use it with complex problems.

    I get tired of being accused of "low standards" or "watering down" assessment when in fact authentic assessment has more genuine accountability and higher standards than kill-and-drill tests.

  2. I think it is inevitable that reporting will either be incomplete or trivialize learning. Reporting the full breadth of months of learning calls for some form of generalization and that diminishes meaning and significance.I can accept that with no qualms. It is hard to fight the search for verity and quantification.

  3. Alan, you speak of a very contentious issue. How the heck to do teachers report on the richness and messiness of real learning without wanting to kill themselves?

    Let me know when you figure this one out. I'm tackling it right now...

  4. John, I get accused of lowering the bar all the time by people who have never been in my classroom. They simply hear that I don't believe in traditional tests, grades and homework so they assume I'm a joke. While their assumptions mostly make an ass out of themselves, it does affect me in ways I don't appreciate.


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