Blog Post

What We Should Be Testing and Assessing

I was asked what skills I would want to assess if I were to reform "standards-based" education.   David Gibson, who will be one of our participants in a MacArthur Peer-to-Peer Pedgagogy HASTAC Scholars Workshop next fall, posed this question.  Here are the skills I think are important and that I'd love to be able to assess in a meaningful way.


*  Do our current methods of assessment address the new "search" method of nonlinear thinking of digital youth today?

*What would a test for "continuous partial attention"--its upside and its down--look like?

*Are we sure that there is an epidemic of attention and learning disorders, or are we testing new skills and kids with new skills by standards designed for the Industrial Age?

*How do you test gamer, customizing, strategizing skills?

*How do you test collaborative, cooperative skills?



I like it. I too was asked the other day what a reformed educational system (emphasis on standardization/evaluation) would look like in my fiated world. One question that I ended up focusing on as a conduit to channel my thinking was that of who the test is for. Current standards, in the federal educational sense, are tools not for the student or even educator but for the policy maker. What they do is present a goal that guides all the paths through learning towards something, and that something, because standards must be measured, must quantifiable ahead of pedagogical.


You focus a lot on game-oriented language in your 'standards' above, and it does raise the question of what is the difference between learning a game and learning "school." The game, as an activity, is a constant test, and as a test it is a constantly instructive test. The better one gets, the harder the going gets, and while one can take a break, stop by a city (mmorpg), wander around, there really is no activity there outside of the Great Test. It is not a test meant to differentiate, because everyone is uniquely tested by virtue of the fact that they are each solving their own problems their own ways. Achieving anything is synonymous with passing the test to get to it.


Academic testing, by contrast, separates learning and testing in, when one thinks about it, counter intuitive ways. How could the proving-you-have-learned ever really be separate from the doing? And it does seem like the answer is only by some sleight of hand and acculturation.


So then, given this, how might 'the system' as we know it look different if we wanted to change it around like this. One does wonder, and your priorities above seem to reinforce, whether the material we habitiually expect to be part of assesment are really central, or if they are in what way, to being educated. I don't have immediate answers that would not ultimately prove shallow, but this comes to mind:


Hi, Evan,  This is exactly the argument I make in the book I sent off to my editor on Friday---that right now, to quote you, the way we learn and teach are different fro the way we test.   They ar different not only in form but in the cognitive skills being mastered in one and the cognitive skills being measured in another.   And if we think about the form of strategic learning in game play, then we have a radical mismatch with current forms of assessment which are based on multiple-choice testing, a very different kind of thinking than "search thinking," or "game thinking."   These are exactly the big questions that interest me.  Thanks for your contribution, Evan.