LEARNing: Show what you know; don’t stress for the test (#3)

“Part of our failure rate in contemporary education can be blamed on the one-size-fits-all model of standards that evolved over the course of the twentieth century; as we narrow the spectrum of skills that we test in schools, more and more kids who have skills outside of that spectrum will be labeled a failures.”  (Davidson, 77 pag.)

How might we change the mindset our school communities concerning assessment?  What if we thought of opportunities to allow learners to show what they know rather than to stress about a TEST?

Let’s say you’ve created an exam that has…say…150 points.  Would learners really need to acquire 135 points to make an A?  (150 x 0.90 = 135)  How many points, problems, ideas, etc. does a learner need to gain, show, demonstrate to earn an A? a B? a C? Hmm…

Does every learner need to learn exactly the same thing?  Do they have to correctly get 90-100% of what is offered them to be considered an “A student”?  How many times does a learner have the option to “do” something to show they have learned?  Would it be possible to let the learners customize their assessments to show what they know and have learned in the way or ways they have learned?

Language teachers offer learners oral and written tests.  Science teachers offer learners practicums along with written tests.  What do other teachers offer students in the way of demonstration assessments?

What if we crowd sourced assessment?  What if we created common assessments that offered learners multiple ways to show what they know?  What is we used tables of specifications to offer learners feedback on their strengths while honoring and celebrating what they know?  What if our learners customized their own assessments to suit their learning and assessment styles?

Let’s say that Peyten is terrible at multiple choice, and Garnet great at it.  Peyten likes to write, draw, and diagram while Garner prefers to talk and discuss to demonstrate learning.  Peyten’s teacher always uses multiple choice; Garnet’s never uses multiple choice.  Couldn’t each learner show what they know using their preferred method IF their teachers collaborated when developing assessments?

What if we used collaboration by difference to improve the opportunities for learners to show their learning, customized to their strengths and talents?

“Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.”  (Davidson, 100 pag.)

Could we share and combine our assessments and then offer learners the opportunity to customize their assessments to show what they know?  What if the table of specifications, based on the expected essential learnings, served as a menu?  Learners could choose what and how they demonstrate their learning.

“It always seems more cumbersome in the short-run to seek out divergent and even quirky opinions, but it turns out to be efficient in the end and necessary for success if one seeks an outcome that is unexpected and sustainable.”  (Davidson, 100 pag.)

How can we harness the wisdom of our colleagues and other learners? How can we change our thinking to look for what learners know instead of what they “missed?”  What if we use crowd sourcing and collaboration by difference to see unexpected and sustainable changes in the way we think about and act upon the process of assessing learning?


Davidson, Cathy N.  Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. Print.

LEARNing: Changed circumstances – unlearning and relearning (#2)

Learning, unlearning, and relearning.  How do we practice learning, unlearning, and relearning?  How do we model lifelong learning for our young learners?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ” Alvin Toffler

While I love Alvin Toffler’s quote, I will confess that I don’t think I have understood the ideas of unlearn and relearn until today.  Do I practice unlearning? Have I even experienced unlearning and relearning?

“Unlearning is required when the world or your circumstances in that world have changed so completely that your old habits now hold you back.”  (Davidson, 19 pag.)

Have our circumstances at school changed so completely that old habits are holding back progress?  Am I holding on to my old habits so hard that I am holding back my learners? Every learner has access to amazing amounts of information at their fingertips via their smart phone, iPad, and computer. YIKES!  Circumstances have changed.

“It means becoming a student again because your training doesn’t comprehend the task before you.  You have to, first, see your present patterns, then, second, you have to learn how to break them.  Only then do you have a chance of seeing what you are missing? (Davidson, 19 pag.)

What habits have I tried to break or change to see what I’m missing?  What have I been willing unlearn and relearn?

“Unlearning requires that you take an inventory of your changed situation, that you take an inventory of your current repertoire of skills, and that you have the confidence to see your shortcomings and repair them.” (Davidson, 86 pag.)

  • Integrated studies – Synergy: What if school looked more like real life?
    • Will students learn if they choose the problems to investigate?
    • Will they be motivated to work and learn if they are not graded?
    • When learners have an authentic audience, will they write and work at a higher level?
  • Balanced Assessment – Leveled formative assessment to help our learners level up
    • Will students learn without being graded?
    • Will they “level up” if they can see where they are and where we want them to be prior to the test?
    • Will learners self-correct if given a second chance on tests?
      •  Is time a variable and learning a constant?
      • Can we improve confidence and efficacy by offering mulligans?
Circumstances have changed.  How will we learn, unlearn, and relearn.  


Davidson, Cathy N.  Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. Print.

LEARNing: Using technology “differently” (#1)

Last week I was “schooled” in using technology by a first grader.  She was invited to write for edu180atl.  Her post was published on 5.2.12.  To draft her post, we selected two pictures to use as inspiration.  She wrote a story for each picture and selected one for submission.  HOW she used technology to write was a HUGE lesson for me.

She took my computer from me and wrote 3 sentences.  There was a word that had a red “crinkly” line under it.


The instant feedback transitioned the technology to teachnology; it caused her to ask herself questions.  Finally, she asked me how to spell inspired.  Then, she read her 3 sentences out loud and decided that she needed another sentence in between two of the current sentences.  (Do I do that when I write?)

She was determined to have 200 words, not 198 words or 205 words.  She wanted 200 words exactly.  She learned how to use the word count feature since both stories were in the same document.  She read out loud and deleted words.  She read out loud again and added words.  It was awesome to watch.  She chose to ask to have a “peer” editor.  “Are there 2 words that I can delete? I want exactly 200 words.”  How much more confidence would I have about my writing if I had published articles and ideas when I was younger?

This experience with my first grader makes me wonder about learning – well, anything – with technology.  What assumptions do we make about what learners will and won’t learn if we put technology in their hands?

“How can we focus on what we do best without missing new opportunities to do better?” (Davidson, 17 pag.)


Davidson, Cathy N. “I’ll Count-You Take Care of the Gorilla.” Introduction. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. 17. Print.