Now You See It by Cathy Davidson

Measuring Learning

  • Cathy gives a short history of testing and grading that dates back to the 19th century. This includes a study of how variable a student’s performance can be. The most meaningful standard measured is the standard of living enjoyed by the family of the student taking the test. If the multiple-choice test is the Model T of knowledge assessment, we need to ask what is the purpose of the Model T in the information age? Such exams have fostered a school-based culture of rote memorization that has little to do with true learning. Search functions on Google have rendered multiple-choice tests obsolete now that a robot can ace NAEP tests.
  • Let’s replace nightmares over whether students will pass bubble tests and if their schools will fail with dreams of projects they are working on. Let’s save the last two months of a school year for inspiring unstructured, collaborative learning rather than dumbing down to the tests. We need to teach higher-order thinking, creative skills, and how to work with others. We know students learn best when schooling relates to their lives in their homes and communities. Online for-profit schools are already experimenting with new ways to measure learning.
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