I hate buzz words! I really do. But in education, as in any profession, we use them all of the time. I am guilty of it too, but there is one particular use that I especially hate. The political use of educational buzzwords by reformers and politicians to promote standardization and testing. I hate the current movement focusing on standard curriculum and tests for every student. I have always believed that individual, authentic assessment by professional teachers is the better course. I also believe that when students are doing authentic tasks that really matter that their learning is obvious to anyone who takes the time to talk to them. I have not always felt the ability to express this clearly to others though. Usually the best way is through stories and examples.
Then I saw John Hunter’s Ted Talk about his World Peace Game. It is a fantastic simulation that is structured but open-ended. The whole video is worth your time but I want to focus on the segment from 14:40-16:55.
I love what John Hunter says:
I get chills every time I see that. That’s the kind of engagement
we want to have happen. And I can’t design that, I can’t plan
that, and I can’t even test that. But it is self evident
assessment. We know that that is an authentic assessment of
learning. You know we have a lot of data but I think sometimes
we go beyond data with the truth of learning of what is going on.
So as much as I hate buzz words I propose a new one to fight against people who say that we need more “data” (test scores) or “common assessments” (test scores) to help improve “student achievement” (test scores): self evident assessment.
When students, especially in the PBL model, present authentic work to real audiences the skills and learning are apparent and obvious. I do not hear people asking how teachers are assessing in these situations. On the other hand testing is a great way to assess worksheet dittos and questions from the textbook. Maybe the reason that we have so many politicians and reformers pushing the testing agenda is because too many teachers for too long have not given students the opportunity to engage in activities which produce self evident assessment.
I believe as politicians push educators into testing and more testing leading to test prep and more test prep that parents will seek out and demand these type of learning experiences for their children.