#rhizo15 What should we count?

The question posed by Dave in his video is slightly different from the one in the title of his post here. Please don’t think I am a pedant Dave, but there’s a world of difference between can and should in this context, perhaps that was deliberate. We can (and do) count many things in education in the UK (and elsewhere in the world I’m sure). The age at which a small child reaches certain milestones (sometimes very random ones like correctly using cutlery) the number of words correctly identified in a reading test, the ability to identify and repeat certain sounds. We measure growth and weight of a baby from the moment it is born, we compare and take actions or make predictions based on the information we find. Personally I have very potent memories associated with every point of measurement for one of my children who is disabled. I am sure he knows of more that were inflicted upon him as he travelled the road to becoming very capable, loving and able young man he is now, despite attempts (deliberate or otherwise) to make him experience failure.  I won’t bore you with the details, they are too painful to write about anyway and I know I am not alone in this. So should we measure all these things? We should certainly think long and hard about what and how we measure. The impact of the auditing culture that has been allowed to thrive unchallenged for far too long should be exposed. I wrote this (below) as part of an assignment on assessment for language teaching. A very commodified, high stakes, sometimes politically determined activity – language assessments can be used to decide if you are allowed in to a country, if you get access to work or study for example. So results on such assessments matter.

We can, we do, should we? Is it not more valuable to be able to understand how your learning can move on? We should think more deeply about when and how we measure, we should provide information for individuals to measure themselves if they want to do so and pathways to the next level. Greater use of Assessment for learning principles. When we insist on measuring for auditing purposes we need to be aware of the damage we can do. If you measure me, that’s my data you hold.  Learning Analytics discussions in HE recently produced (in a serious discussion) counting the number of library resources accessed by a student as a measure of their scholarship. Really? I think that could easily be “gamified” and actually how valid is that measurement in an age where for many reading is online and the library is just one of many potential access points. Big data possibilities seem to be removed from thoughts of ethics and morality. A Code of practice for Learning Analytics in UK HE is under construction at the moment. What we count is what we get – we need to know that we count things that matter and not foget the human in the process. This is an era where we have more data than ever before but little wisdom.


from Flickr commons

Image: Abacus by Tiffany Terry from Flickr shared under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

5 responses to “#rhizo15 What should we count?

    • Next level – I did flinch when I wrote this! what I really think I mean there is a responsibility on those of us who teach to help identify a path onwards – does that help? Contexts vary of course. The can/should was a great starting point, thank you 🙂

  1. Hi Teresa you’re asking some really good questions. It strikes me that we tend to unusefully define boxes for people to be fitted into rather than help people to use the means most appropriate to them to express how it is that we might most usefully help them.

    • Hi Simon, thanks. I agree. Sometimes though our industrial model of teaching doesn’t allow the time to really listen to individuals. Social networks can help with this as can extending personal learning networks online I think.

  2. Teresa, you mentioned assessment for learning – this is particularly problematic at the higher ed level with a time constrained course limit and time hampered marking schedule. Without chances to ‘sit beside’ a learner as they think out loud, there are few ways to see/hear what learners have learned, or to create meaningful and relevant feedback. It’s a conundrum that is not easily solved. BUT, it is so important and will count when looking at improved outcomes. Helen

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