Mind The Assessment Gap

If you ask parents what they want for their children, they talk about wanting them to be happy, confident, independent, creative, well adjusted and productive. Educators will add that they want their students to be able to communicate, collaborate, think critically and to become good global citizens. And what do our young people want for themselves? How do we give them the tools, strategies and opportunities to be their own teachers, their own assessors and evaluators? The world needs motivated and autonomous learners beyond the classroom.

Now think about what we measure…

We measure student achievement with grades and standardized assessments, credit accumulation, graduation rates, attendance and learning skills. Even though it may be more difficult to measure things like collaboration, creativity, citizenship and communication, that is no reason to dismiss them. After all, are we here to do what’s best for kids or what’s easier for us? It comes down to what we value. Is it learning or achievement?

“Since we can’t measure what we care about, we start caring about what we can measure.”
Joel Westheimer

Things have changed since 2010 when the article this quote came from was published. I would modify this line to “Since we couldn’t easily measure what we cared about, we started caring about what we could easily measure.”  There are groups, organizations and institutions working to develop measures for the things we value but haven’t been able to easily measure. (Look here, here, here and here)

Why do we continue to look for data in the spotlight when what we care about is often  in the shadows? We know that, in many cases what gets measured gets done (what gets tested, gets taught). The dilemma is that people equate what we measure with what we value. When we measure, celebrate and react to data, we are saying they are important to us. What we have is an assessment gap. We don’t measure temperature with a meter stick, how can we expect to measure what we value today with with the instruments of the past? We need a set of measures to help us understand our impact on the things we value, to help students see their development and growth, to help parents understand and support their child’s learning.


There is this…
The new Towards Defining 21st Century Competencies for Ontario document sets the stage for discussions about what pedagogical and assessment practices are necessary to support these global competencies (1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, 2. Communication, 3. Collaboration, 4. Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 5. Global Citizenship, and 6. Learning To Learn, Self-Aware & Self Directed Learning)



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