Monday, November 19, 2012

Grades and Tests May Miss Measuring What Matters Most in Learning. From the Crampicle.

By Dan Berrett

As pressure mounts on colleges to document what their students learn, it remains tough to judge from outside the classroom how much knowledge they gain from their academic experience.

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.


FULL ARTICLE.

14 comments:

  1. 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.

    Translated: we need to flunk more students.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "But the two professors also found that those measures of deep learning bore no relationship to students' grade-point averages, a result Ms. Campbell found surprising."

    Right, because she has no previous experience of dumbasses or liars. Come on, there's always a cohort of students who say "I tried real hard" when they get a D for writing half a page instead of 1500 words for an essay. They will self-report that they are doing deep learning, and they might even believe it.

    I love the idea of not giving grades, because it would annoy the hell out of all the grade-grubbers. I already refuse to give grades without context, but until universities and employers figure out how to do without transcripts, there's no real way to get students away from being focussed on the numbers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This sounds like professors of education putting a jargony new name on something that most teachers are already doing, and have been doing since about 1500 a.d. Oh, and then f***ing up the attempt to quantify results because they're not clear on what they're trying to measure. That sounds familiar, too.

    If this is "Deep Learning"

    "...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."

    than this is what I DO. This is what my tenth-grade high school students do and it's what my college students do. (Though my college students do far less of it because I don't really "teach" them, I manage a "learning module" created by someone else, and that someone else lurvs multiple-choice tests, which I loathe).

    I wish education departments would stop trying to justify their existences by reinventing the wheel. The amount of time we spend sorting through the steaming piles of self-serving bullshit shoveled our way by people with PhDs in "education" is staggering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The amount of time we spend sorting through the steaming piles of self-serving bullshit shoveled our way by people with PhDs in "education" is staggering.

      Yes. That.

      But you have a typo: it should be 1500 B.C. I'm pretty sure the peripatetic schools were doing this, too.

      Delete
    2. Very true, Introvert--point taken. My mind has been in the Renaissance lately, so I guess that's where it rested.

      Delete
  4. The assignments of the students helps them to improve their skills in the particular subject, so that they can get the good result in their graduation.

    http://www.educationrequirements.org/

    ReplyDelete
  5. The assignments of the students helps them to improve their skills in the particular subject, so that they can get the good result in their graduation.

    http://www.educationrequirements.org/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spam I Am.
      Do you like green eggs and Spam?
      I do not like it, Spam I Am.

      Delete
  6. "If they're not in college to get this stuff out of college," he said, "maybe it won't matter what we do."

    Amen.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Higher-education experts at ACT, the testing service that created the CAAP, acknowledged that there is a limit to how well a multiple-choice test can measure students' skill at sorting through problems with uncertain answers." Well, no shit, Sherlock.

    Evidently since we've dumbed down "critical thinking" now to mean "EEG not a total flatline" they've invented a new term. News bulletin: "Deep learning" = "Learning."

    ReplyDelete
  8. What everybody else said. The whole point of a college education is to be able to deal well with novel situations (in part by connecting them to known ones and/or known methodology; in part by recognizing where there are differences & coming up w/ new approaches). That often goes counter to students' (and many administrators' and edupreneurs') ideas of what educations should be (i.e. content delivery/assimilation).

    I'm a bit more sanguine than others that some of these skills could be measured by standardized test, though not apparently the ones that are out there. It is, for instance, possible to include answers in a multiple-choice test that include "cannot be known/determined," with or without a "because" to follow. The same would be true of choices that recognize that one variable is dependent on another, or that implicit underlying assumptions would shape the answer, or something along those lines. One could even ask the test-taker to make a decision based on a set of assumptions that go counter to common sense, but which would be accepted for the duration of the question/question set (a sort of mental gymnastics). Such tests *can* be written, but production of same would take some pretty higher-order thinking (probably more typical of Ph.D.s in fields like philosophy than of your average jargon-loving Ed.D.), and the rationales would have to be absolutely water-tight, because if they had any consequences at all, they would provoke cries of "not fair," complaints, and possibly lawsuits.

    It would probably actually be easier to assess such thinking via essay exam, but you'd need not only well-constructed questions, but examiners who themselves excelled in critical thinking (i.e. not your average recent B.A., or a robot, even one equipped with a certain amount of AI-based reasoning power).

    Or, in other words, we've identified yet another core component of a real/effective education that is expensive to teach, and expensive to assess. For all that the reformers want evidence-based practices, this is not what they want to hear. Smart people spending intense time with individual students and small groups of students just doesn't sound innovative, or efficient, or any of those things. But it works.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "Smart people spending intense time with individual students and small groups of students just doesn't sound innovative, or efficient, or any of those things. But it works."

    So very true, CC. Well said!

    ReplyDelete