Lots of thoughts bouncing around as another school year ends, my 37th. I’ve been hit by the same pendulums several times, including the Evaluation Pendulum. I’ve been able to work in schools that were improving, and a couple that were models for others. The only common characteristic of the two groups is that they were never static. We were always looking for ways to improve our “product,” recognizing that the expectations placed on our graduates were constantly changing, consequently, we had to re-examine our methods and results in light of the changing expectations.
I’ve reached a point where I define the purpose of school as preparing students to be workplace ready. At some point, every student will enter the workforce. Some after high school, others after some type of post-secondary experience leading to certification or degree. This makes me think that a successful school is one that focuses on the applications of learning over acquisition of knowledge.
What is the purpose of evaluations? I suggest that the overarching purpose of evaluation is accountability. Are our teachers effective? Are our schools successful? Do our students leave our buildings adequately prepared for what’s next?
If I were to ask you to define learning, what would you say? School is no longer about what was learned, rather, it should be about how you apply what was learned.
I believe that learning is a process that consists of two parts; productive and unproductive. Productive learning is that which leads one to want to learn more. Absent wanting to learn more, the learning is unproductive. In other words, is the learning relevant to the student. In science, we learn about matter and anti-matter. Now, many of our students are asking, Does it matter?
I would like to complete this post with a series of profound, sometimes original thoughts on evaluation, but, after several drafts, I’m not really able to do that. So here are the questions I am struggling with. Need your help in working through them.
- What are accurate and appropriate measures of student learning?
- How do competencies factor into learning? How do they differ from standards?
- How well do current models of teacher evaluation measure student learning?
- What are the characteristics of an effective teacher? Do they directly transfer to application of student learning?
- What are the characteristics of an effective school? Do they directly transfer to application of student learning?
- If the application of learning is the product, and students are our customers, what role should student evaluation play in the accountability of teachers, administrators, and schools?
And so it goes… very interested in your thoughts.