Learning to Count

I don’t know much about assessment anymore. I am also too lazy at the moment to Google “assessing student learning” and am just going to assume that either this hasn’t been modeled before, or that it has and the 17 readers of this blog have not seen the original, or that they have and will tell me so.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s break learning into four categories:

  1. Learning to know.
  2. Learning to do.
  3. Learning to learn.
  4. Learning to be.

So, as long as a student can demonstrate one of these accomplishments (they know what was taught, can do what was taught, can learn to do more, and incorporates all of these) we can measure it and say learning has occurred. Right?

Hmmmm.

Dave Mazella takes off from When is a waffle not?

There are so many possible ideas to parse out of this Twitter essay.

I think I am going to limit myself, at this time to a defense.

I know that I/we count is so abstract as to have little to no relationship to what actually takes place on any of Virginia college or university campus. 

On the other hand, this is no less true of any well-researched history of an event. Only so much can be conveyed through any narrative, whether in prose or video. With prose you are limited to the words (which also have an agreed up definition or collection of such), arranged in a way that to convey the author’s message, and intent. Video differs only that more visual information is conveyed than can be expressed through the written word, but there is still a point of view and intent.

This is all necessary abstraction.

And it is no different than what we do.

Dave makes two points especially worthy of note.  The first, “since concept of curriculum must assume equivalence of “same” class at diff times, places,” is the idea that we do standardize (Jeff’s translation regime again comes into play here) and standardization is both an abstraction and assumption of equivalence. I suspect most of us in the profession think about it as “approximately equal” as “equal” in any quantitative sense really does allow for variance. (Unless specified as such.)

This takes us to items 8 & 9 – assuming we are counting things and not processes; and that standardization encourages to think about education as discrete and thing-like. Exactly. Counting is about things. Even in the midst of a process, it still comes down to counting things. For example, the speedometer on my car measures the fluid process of movement by reporting an estimate of my speed. This is done by counting the revolutions of the driveshaft within the transmission and converting that to velocity based on the gearing and known size of the tires and wheels. Of course, if the tire/wheel is of an unexpected (non-stock or non-programmed size) the estimate is in error. This value is reported to the driver continuously and looks to be a continuous measure when it is only a collection of values for tiny snapshots in time.

If everything in education moved at 88 feet per second, we could fake a process measurement quite well.

Now for the purists that call me out saying the automotive speed is not a process, that’s fine. Show me any other process management that is not a collection of tiny discrete measures.

To return to  our four categories of learning,  the first two are pretty easy. We can test knowledge gain within reasonable timespans. We can wait years and test knowledge retention. We can do the same with doing. If someone can learn to do something and demonstrate that something, they have clearly learned. If they can still do it two years later, then we should probably consider ourselves successful.

Likewise, if over time, someone demonstrates the ability to keep learning in a specific area, that seems to be a successful outcome.

If someone can do all these things within a specific domain, that also seems a success.

Looks and feels like things that can be measured, but to do so seems that it requires a pretty narrow domain of knowledge to me – not what would be expected in a complete college degree (from the associate’s on up). Perhaps less than even what is in a single course.

Further, it seems that knowing and doing prerequisites to further learning, and by our definition, all three prerequisite for being.

We haven’t even discussed the individual. Or the concept of attribution and who was responsible for what. And so it seems to me that despite decades of work and research, we are not really ready to count learning.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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