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Whose Assessment?

What and whom are we testing?

“If we are essentially corect that real learning is about accessing Personal Awareness and then reading correctly the images formed by the press of that awareness on the feeling life, then is our testing an actual measure of that process?” – Willis & Greenberg, Heart of the Matter, 2007

Ask yourself this question repeatedly as you set your intentions for teaching.  Yes, teaching.  It is easy to acknowledge the myriad of standards for which we are accountable that we can construct affable assessments.

However, how can we “test” experience and awareness?  Moreover, how can we permit these faculties into our learning so that assessment is self-motivated, accurate, and more complete than simplistic “fill-in-the-blank-of-what-I-told-you-to-know” measures of knowledge?

Comment on assessments you have that parallel our vision above.  Also, discuss what is embedded within your attitude toward assessment that counters our arguments.


  1. Kim Machnik says:

    I begin this conversation with some hesitancy because I’m coming from a rather unusual perspective; I teach a self-contained highly gifted fourth grade class. I’m not sure how effective this type of assessment would be in a general education classroom, but I find that alignment of the four faculties can happen when I present my students with a problem, such as “build a flashlight,” “invent something to get the aluminum out of the landfill,” or “how would the Lands Beyond (from the Phantom Tollbooth) look after 5 million years of weathering?” and provide them with a set of materials to fashion a solution/answer/model. In some cases, I’ve discovered, giving them minimal guidance produces a more true assessment of their learning, and allows them to draw from their own talents and utilize connections they’ve made to other experiences. I find out what they’ve learned, rather than whether they’ve learned (which is how I feel when I give them a test- mastery or not?). It’s risky, though, because it means that a few students will inevitably be frustrated by the scope, materials, or ideas. I can work with these students a little more closely, which sometimes works to get them on the right track (and shows me which subset of my little population I’m not serving with my instruction on that topic).

  2. rachelkt says:

    There are a number of things in this comment that I’d like to highlight. First off, I wholeheartedly agree with your attempt at harnessing an alignment of the faculties when you present a quite related but very open-ended assignment such as the ones you mentioned in your post. What you are doing is saying, “Here we’ve learned some things together, now meld them with what you Feel/Know and present it to others (i.e. assimilate it with how you understand it and next bring it forward using your Thinking/Understanding and Personality/Behavior faculties).” In order to bring in Awareness, I’d also offer kids a chance to first take a gander at all the materials, i.e. to just consider simply the wholeness of a book, and possibly just the use prompt “Scan all of your options today and go to the one toward which your gut takes you.” Your comment about assessment of WHAT they learned rather than WHETHER they learned is quite Attentive. I say so because we often homogenize our assessments to cast the widest net over all that was taught in order to “catch” kids’ errors (never mind what they actually do know). Your ideas instead speak your attitude which seems to be, “I know each of my kids will take away different things from these experiences. I will need to assess what they have learned in hopes of learning where next to take them.” This is the epitome of attentiveness, a key to differentiation, and works brilliantly with ALL kids, gifted or not. Let’s hear more of your great assessment ideas. Thanks for the post!

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