One of the goals of K-12 education is to prepare students for THEIR future, the next step, career, higher education, the real world. Therefore, are we assessing students in ways that prepares them for the real world? The real world, which we readily have access to information. Or, are many of our assessments about memorization, content recall, and getting a “grade” as part of the game of school?
Real World Example
In my current position as director of technology and including all technology department staff, if we were expected to do our job based only on the information we memorized and then recalled in order to solve problems, we would not be very effective. The technology department’s success in solving problems is based on collaboration, information on the Internet, and inquiring with experts.
For example, I was recently trying to figure out a solution to a problem. After many attempts and failure to figure it out, I called on a colleague to assist. After working together to find a solution, we looked over our past notes and searched the Internet. Still not resolving the issue, we reached out to an expert. On two occasions, the technical expert, controlled my screen remotely to determine a solution. Still not finding a solution, he accessed other technicians' notes in a wiki and had to inquire with another technician. Finally, success! But, success was achieved based less on what I knew and more on my ability to be resourceful. In the real world, resourcefulness equals success. In school, it’s called cheating.
A recent podcast Your Cheatin’ Tech by Modern Learners, Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon explore the question; Shouldn’t we be allowing students to use all available resources to demonstrate their learning, as we do in the real world? We can no longer think of school as it was in the past; the teacher as the expert, imparts their knowledge to students, students are expected to recall that information on a test to demonstrate learning. David Helfand, a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University, underscores this thought:
Is it cheating if we allow student to use whatever tools or technology they need to answer assessment questions? If being collaborative, reaching out to experts, and using available technologies is cheating, isn’t it time to rethink how we assess student learning? Maybe we need to change the test or assessment to better reflect the real world. After all, “content recall is not what success is about in the world” (Will Richardson). Assessments need to be designed in such a way that students can’t just memorize the information in order to demonstrate their learning, but rather design a more authentic and interesting assessment of learning. Educators should provide more opportunities to make the test something that students can’t cheat on and just memorize. Make the assessment about demonstrating applicable knowledge through authentic and interesting work.
It’s time to change school to be an empowering and authentic learning experience that works better for our students in the real world. The change starts with a philosophical discussion and change in how students are assessed.