By Dan Berrett
The traditional measure of learning is the course grade. Nothing says academic success more succinctly than an A.
But an A is subjective. Skeptics note that course requirements vary depending on the professor, the department, and the institution. Grades are often inflated.
Alternative methods to document learning have arisen in the form of standardized tests of critical thinking, which are meant to assess students' ability to analyze material at a collegiate level. The strength of such tests is in their ability to provide results that can be compared across institutions.
But what if neither of those methods says much about the teaching, expectations, and assignments that students encounter in their courses?
According to this view, the nature of teaching and learning should be measured instead of relying solely on an outcome like a grade or a test. Students should be exposed to courses and assignments that require them to analyze information and apply it to new contexts, reflect on what they know, identify what they still need to learn, and sort through contradictory arguments.