Assessments: Moving From Information to Interaction

I was reading this post today by Bill Ferriter – What If Schools Created a Culture of “Do” INSTEAD of a Culture of “Know?” and it reminded me of something that I had written on authentic assessment as part of my dissertation.

Assessment is an important part of learning. Authentic assessment, which often includes a project or performance, is not just a fun and engaging activity; it is a true test of a student’s abilities. Performances can be individual projects or groups of students working together toward a common goal. The performance gives students the chance to show what they have learned and for the teacher to assess their abilities (Furger, 2002). Authentic assessment broadens the kind of information that is collected about students and the way that information is used in the evaluation of learning. Authentic assessment is not the random recall of previously covered material, but instead scaffolds the knowledge each student brings to the learning situation.

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Standardized tests, made up of mostly true-false and multiple-choice questions, test basic knowledge and skills rather than encouraging creative, critical thinking, the type of learning that will prepare students for the 21st century (Corbett & Wilson, 1991; Shepard & Smith, 1988; Smith & Cohen, 1991). Standardized tests encourage instruction of less important skills and passive learning. Lawmakers and parents argue that assessing minimum levels of proficiency is no longer sufficient in a competitive, global world. Schools should focus on developing students skills and competencies in real-life, “authentic” situations, and graduate students who can demonstrate these abilities. Authentic assessments are better than standardized tests at matching the skills students learn in school with the skills they will need upon leaving school (Winking & Bond, 1995).

The term Web 2.0 signified the shift from the Information Age to the Age of Interaction; from one-way communication to two-way interaction encouraging communities instead of consumers or customers. The web shifted from a medium in which information was mostly transmitted and consumed to a platform in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and passed along.

Young people today, sometimes called “Generation Y,” “Millenials,” or “Echo Boomers,” are being described by researchers as individuals whose lives have been shaped by the Internet and the constant introduction of new electronic devices. They integrate the latest technologies into the way they work, relax and socialize. For them, email is old school; “Millennials” relish the speed and mobility of text messaging.

Past generations made do with the telephone and television, today’s generation has access to those devices plus video games, the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, and videos and music that can be downloaded in an instant. The “Net Generation” has grown up in a wired world and they are digital, connected, experiential, and social (Oblinger, 2005) and we should consider that when we formulate our assessment strategies.