Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Measuring Teaching and Learning

A colleague and I were discussing curriculum efforts and practice this morning.

I shared my formula for judging curriculum.  It is learning/curriculum.  If the resulting percent is 100% or more, then the I deem the curriculum prep, implementation and response worthwhile, but if the resulting percentage is much less than one, then I deem the curriculum unworthy.  I must say I use the same formula for judging tech too.  Again, if the learning is equal to or outweighs the tech time and effort, then I judge it to be worthy, but if the fraction results in a percentage far less than one than it is not worthy.  The only time I don't use this formula is if I can envision far reaching growth and movement for the curriculum piece or tech with regard to my use, the curriculum/tech growth and/or students' interest, use and familiarity. For example Minecraft has not been adopted by many schools, and it will take me time to learn and use, but students' engagement, the research and the implications games like this have for the learning/working world are tremendous. Hence, it's probably a good curriculum investment.

Then my colleague asked me how I measure learning.  He also mentioned Heckman's research on non cognitive skills.  That got me thinking, and my retort was that measurability is an issue of our times.  I also thought about the Eric McAfee interview I read yesterday related to businesses and social media.  McAfee, Principal Research Scientist, MIT Center for Digital Business, states, "I don’t have bulletproof academic research yet that will demonstrate that this stuff leads to superior outcomes at the level of the firm." Even though he doesn't have "bulletproof" evidence, his observations, experience and instinct leads him to notice the positivity of social media in today's world. It is similar with educators who have been in the job for many years--if we're alert and staying in touch with the latest research and developments in the field, we too can observe what works and analyze our observations well. 

I do have a way of measuring learning in my practice and it involves the following criteria:
  • Are children engaged and motivated?
  • Do informal and formal assessments demonstrate growth from the initial assessments?
  • Are children talking about and utilizing the information in new ways, and integrating the learning in their play, problem solving, project work and outside-of-school endeavors. 
I assess curriculum in the following ways:
  • How much time does it take? Is the time worth the result?
  • Will it engage the child's brain in many different ways thus promoting cognitive flexibility and facility?
  • Does the curriculum have meaning and relevance?
  • Is the curriculum interdisciplinary?
  • Does the curriculum deal with the essential challenge of that learning goal with the use of multi-modal, mixed-platform learning paths?
  • Is the curriculum easily transferable to children's home talk, activity and life interactions?
How do you assess curriculum and your efforts?  Do you use an informal learning/curriculum formula to make decisions regarding curriculum implementation?  How are you responding to today's movement towards learning measurement?