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.

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