Friday, February 8, 2013

Can we follow the trail?

It snowed last night - a lot.

from NOAA
This morning, as I began the process of digging us out, I began noticing how the snow kept a record of my progress.

This got me thinking about assessment and monitoring the progress of learning. Too often, it seems that the assessment information we collect provides a picture of where learners are at but not enough about how they got there. It's as if they magically appeared in the snow.

But moving through the snow forces us to leave tracks. If the tracks are clear enough, we might be able to follow the path. One of the reasons I have learners write metacognitive memoir is that it leaves a trail for me to follow - it makes their thinking visible.

Sometimes the trail can be confusing, however. It's not always clear the path that was taken or even which footprints belong to the traveler and which were left by someone else.

That's why I often like to interrupt learners in the middle of their efforts -- to catch them in the act of thinking.

It is also the reason why I like Ewan MacIntosh's idea of engaging learners in problem finding rather than problem solving. Perhaps a pristine area of snow will make it easier to follow their path.

Thanks for indulging me this metaphor. It was a great day to play in the snow and think about assessment.

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