Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Outcomes

I hate outcomes assessment, really I do. In my first year at Utopia U. we were asked if we wanted to join the Outcomes Assessment committee, and I ran ran RAN away. I had been introduced to OA as an academic administrator, and the topic is filled with the kind of specifics and details I do not handle very well.

But I do appreciate the concept of OA, which is that it's better to hold students/faculty accountable for what they learn/teach rather than simply to mark time. The focus on grades and "Carnegie Units" teaches children to prioritize performance over actual learning.

Making a change from having students bide their time to focusing on how much they learn is a paradigm shift I don't think the schools are capable of. Not only that, but age/size/maturity levels are also key. But much as I was underwhelmed by Outliers, some parts still stick, and one of them is Gladwell's analysis of hockey players. The system's artificial imposition of cutoff dates means that the older/larger/more mature kids get the attention that contributes to their later success. Perhaps the same holds true for K-12 education.

Jay Mathews of WaPo thinks that maybe we can focus more on outcomes rather than time spent by doing away with social promotion. I don't know. I can see how lack of social promotion stigmatizes some kids. But focusing on individual learning is different. Maybe having classes and having the students move around those classes, from teacher to teacher, would be a good idea. When they're ready to learn about electricity, they go to Mrs. K. When they're ready to learn 5 paragraph essays, they go to Mrs. M. But until they're ready, they stay with Ms. S.

But then I think about teacher burnout. And the need of younger children for consistency in teachers.

Still, it would be exciting to see more learning-focused instruction happen in K-12, which would then mean I could start expecting more of my college students. :)

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