Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Allergic to assessment or measurement?

OK, so now I am sort of in catch up mode to respond to some interesting blog posts I've read in the past few days on Change. I was reading a blog post from Brainy smurf on being allergic to measurement where he asks:

Why does it even matter how I learned to perform as long as I can do the job well ?!”
 I think that you're not allergic to assessment (or measurement) but rather you are allergic to crappy assessment.  The easiest way to think of assessment is to gather some sort of number - clicks on a link, or amount of time spent in a discussion forum, or number of paragraphs in an essay or number of correct answers in a multiple choice test, heck the multiple choice test is itself an instrument of assessment.

Now, just because you have a hammer, not everything is a nail, and this is where crappy assessment comes in.  Numbers gathered are meaningless in a decontextualized environment - so who cares how many people have clicked on a link and "read" an article if they can't apply what they read? Multiple choice tests are equally bad outside of appropriate environments (I would say that multiple choice tests are bad the majority of the time, but that just me).

I think that if there is authentic assessment, as you mentioned "if you can perform...", then congrats, you've actually passed the test :-) ! Assessment, in my opinion, should be authentic and unobtrusive.  Once assessment becomes obtrusive it becomes a problem and many of us have an allergy to it. Why?  Because (in most cases anyway) it ceases to be authentic assessment and it becomes decontextualized "bad" assessment.

It reminds me of a time I was in a graduate class in project management.  I really loved the class, and we (looking back at it) had a lot of assessment opportunities in the class throughout the semester.  Students did case analyses (which are assessable), students performed a semester-long project management project where they planned, analyzed and presented every angle of a project that they were to manage (all that needed to be done after that was implementation) and students also lead class sessions - again all of these were assessable.

At the end of the semester what did we have?  A final exam, 3 hours, sit-down, in class, that was multiple choice and short answers.  Why? because the department required it. A blanket rule that you needed to have a final exam in all your classes, regardless of what the content of the course and what the instructional strategy was.  This is an example of bad assessment, and luckily you're not the only one allergic to crappy assessment, we all are :-)
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