EduTech and Eric Mazur

The day at EduTech started in spectacular fashion with Eric Mazur keynoting.  He was talking about assessment and how, in its current form, it is killing learning.

He described a conversation many years ago with a young lady on a plane who was just getting started with her own cloud based assessment system which was based on the production and use of flash cards.   He decided to let her know that the research reflected that  rote learning like this means things are remembered quite well for a few days but after a week, only 35% is remembered.  Her response was that ‘we only guarantee that they will pass the test”.

Where’s the ownership of learning when they are simply studying to pass the test?  If the focus is on transfer of information – where’s the 21st Century skills?  Our system is too focussed on ranking and classifying students.

Why assessment? Why do we concentrate on such a narrow range of purposes when there are a huge number of reasons why we assess students?

Look at Blooms Taxonomy with creating at the peak:


The road to creativity is littered with failures and we have to learn to make assumptions and making assumptions is scary.  Why do we get students to focus on issues that require use of rote learning? Computer can replace this type of learning.  We should, instead, focus on authentic problems – this is scary though, isn’t it?  Our students and our teachers are risk adverse.  Our grading stifles innovation and creativity.

Why are our students being tested in a way that they will never encounter in their professional lives.  What meaningful information can we possibly get from this?

Assessment produces a conflict.  How do we get away from the fact that we are coach and judge? In education we hide behind a thin veil of objectivity.

The only one of the levels of Blooms that can be assessed objectively is at the base of Blooms.  Everything else is subjective.

Few suggestions:

  • Let’s mimic real life. Let’s give them access to information. Can we give them a sheet of information that we have made or can they make their own sheet of information? Can it be open-book?
  • If you have google, is there a problem?   If you can google it – should we not be questioning the very way we are testing them?  If we can google it, its unauthentic.
  • Class doing a group test – team based learning  Individual answers account for 50% of the final result with the team answers accounting for the other 50%.  The team has to teach each other and argue for their answer.  They get a second try for half credit.
  • Let’s focus on feedback and not ranking
  • Let’s focus on skills and not content.  Backward design.  Let’s focus on the desired outcomes and ask what is the evidence I need to collect?
  • Let’s use peer review.
  • Call to action – let’s rethink assessment. If we do not, we will continue to educate the followers of yesterday instead of the leaders of tomorrow.

Our assessment will fail to indicate who will succeed in life and who won’t.


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