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Topic: On Competition
Replies: 8   Last Post: Nov 8, 1995 9:47 AM

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Michael Paul Goldenberg

Posts: 7,041
From: Ann Arbor, MI
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: On Competition
Posted: Nov 8, 1995 9:47 AM
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At 11:17 PM 11/7/95, Lou Talman wrote:
>> When we assess ability of students to work cooperatively in groups,
>> do we not...

>That's a very pretty pair of observations, Ron. I wish I'd seen
>them before you pointed them out to us.
>An important point I'd prefer not go unnoticed is that it is really
>*assessment* that drives competition. I've heard many folks bad-mouth
>assessment. But none of them think that it'd be a bad idea to check
>their heart surgeon's record before he operates on their own personal
>machinery. I presume they'd "assess" his qualifications before...

Well, the next time I've got a K-12 mathematics student about to perform
heart surgery on me, I'll definitely ask to see her grades from Algebra II

What seems to be missing in this conversation are clear positions on WHY we
assess: that is, there are plenty of unstated assumptions about the goals
of assessment, but very little explicit unpacking of those assumptions.
Aside from repeating cliches like "what you assess is what you value" and
"let's make assessment part of the learning process," both of which are
great ideas with which I agree, I'd like to throw this on the table: if the
purpose of assessment is to help students and teachers get feedback on how
well they've "done their jobs" (a concept that itself needs serious
unpacking), I'm all for it. We all want to know our strengths and
weaknesses and to get clues about where (and how) we can best improve
ourselves as learners and teachers.

If the primary purpose of assessment, however, is rank-ordering,
humiliation, 'punishment,' and, in general, in line with the same mentality
that informs another of our troubled institutions, the prison system, then
I think we've got to rethink things just a little bit.

Finally, I like to suggest that teachers assessing their own students may
be inherently contradictory to the primary role of teachers as supporters.
Imagine if parents gave grades to their children starting in infancy: "Oh,
Jimmy isn't walking at age-level. I think we need to move him over to that
Slow-Walker group for remediation." Granted, many parents DO in fact act as
if they are grading their children on everything from school performance to
butt-wiping; and many of those same parents are at the front of the line
calling for "accountability" and "back-to-basics" in schools. But just
because amateurs act in a questionable manner, that doesn't mean that
professionals are obligated to do likewise.

|Michael Paul Goldenberg
|University of Michigan 310 E. Cross St.
|School of Education 4002 Ypsilanti, MI 48198
|Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259 (313) 482-9585
|(313) 747-2244
|"Truth is a mobile army of metaphors."
|Friedrich Nietzsche

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