Controversial Ideas in Education

Here’s a question that I love asking fellow educators:

What is something that you believe to be true about teaching and learning that you don’t think anyone else at the table will agree with?

The responses that I’ve heard have been captivating. Sometimes what is shared ends up saying us more about the person’s perceptions of their peers’ opinions, and we all end up learning that we are less alone than we suspected. Hearing a colleague share a controversial belief in a safe and trusting environment tells so much more than hearing beliefs or experiences that you have in common – it breaks the echo chamber of our own thinking. Try asking this question at lunch, in a PLC, or wherever you head to on a Friday afternoon. You might learn something fascinating.

Since this is my blog post, I’ll share one of my own potentially controversial beliefs about teaching and learning:

Our students are under-assessed.

This might seem self-interested coming from someone who works in a district assessment department, but the idea has more to do with time in classrooms than numbers on spreadsheets. Between SBA, the new WCAS, i-Ready, and Panorama, we’ve never had more digital tools for measuring student learning to layer onto our existing techniques. With so many stakeholders in education with very specific purposes, we need a broad range of assessments to meet the needs of students, teachers, families, school leaders, and state officials.

To the extent that we treat assessments as a have-to rather than a get-to, it’s easy to focus on evaluation and labeling of kids, rather than opportunities to better match our teaching to their learning. We need assessments “to inform decisions that both support and verify learning” (Chappuis, Commodore, and Stiggins, 2010). We leave students under-assessed but over-evaluated when we don’t act on the information we collect. Every assessment is an opportunity to allow students to guide our own professional learning. We just need to take them up on it.

 

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