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

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Robert Wolffe

Posts: 5
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: On Competition
Posted: Nov 8, 1995 7:25 AM
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It was very nice to read the comments made by Michael Goldenberg below
which moved the focus to issues of the learner. While I agree with much of
what he wrote, I'd like to make two comments:
1. While it is true that assessment often evaluates "what you value", this
does not have to be contradictory to the idea of responsible learners. If,
by the types of activities we involve our students, we faciliate the
development of an apprecation in our students of what is important, then
assessment will also be targeted to their value system. This moves the
value choosing away from assessment and to decisions of curriculum and
instruction. The informed choices made at the instructional level should
make clear the appropriate means of assessing accomplishment. The
decision-making process which involves values should have occurred well
before we make choices about which assessment methods to use and what to
2. If we move chioce making to the instructional design level, then
educators can be both facilitator and assessor. In fact, I do not see how
we can be a facilitator without assessing. When we combine our educated
opinion and values with the experiences and preferences of our students,
then our students will see us as one who helps them learn and therefore
helps them assess how they are doing. My experience is that this formative
approach to assessment leads to good summative results when the system
requires that final results be reported (as if learning is ever final)

>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.

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