Thursday, March 19, 2009

Assessing Intellectual Virtue

David Scobey, in his article, "Meanings and Metrics", Inside Higher Ed, March 19, 2009, notes the challenge that assessment poses when the goals for learning go beyond "informational content in a sub-discipline, performance of competent analyses according to check-listed rubrics." He calls for "a 'slow food' model of evaluation" via portfolios. What he has to say resonates to a great extent with the claim I am making about intellectual virtue.
There couldn't be a bigger contrast with the book I am trying to read now: David Ausubel's The Acquisition and Retention of Knowledge: A Cognitive View (2000). The title says it all--learning is about acquiring and retaining information, and that is so, and therefore learning can be assessed, only by equating knowing with remembering. According to the author, this escapes being labeled rote learning if students are able, and are expected, to express the propositions that they have been taught (think transfer) in their own words. Further, he believes in his model: he proceeds as if constant repetition = a convincing argument. The book is a "revision" of his 1963 work, but I can't imagine that he's not just warming over (and at that only very lightly) his almost half-century-old ideas. Dismissing dissenting voices with the oddest arguments, he labels Gagne and Bruner behaviourists and says that those who criticize his position misrepresent it and set up a straw man to attack. Who needs a straw man when such a position and argument are so obviously weak?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Competing vs. Collaborating

Clarence at Remote Access is thinking about the negative side of competitive learning. I agree totally when he says,

I would argue that it is more likely that global cooperation and collaboration are the skills we should be aiming at promoting in schools and classrooms. Students who can think through problems with others, who know where to go for information and understanding, and who have the ability to see things from the perspective of another culture will be far more valued as employees; but more importantly as informed citizens, [than] the lone wolf who doesn't work well with others.

He notes that collaborative efforts are much more difficult to assess, but concludes,
Competitive learning reduces hundreds of hours of hard work to numbers, rankings and sorting charts. It dehumanizes and standardizes. . . . . We need to begin working more WITH the students in our classrooms and stop trying to do things TO them.
This is the kind of perspective that I really appreciate in the bit of the blogosphere that I follow, but I wonder--are Clarence and I on the same wavelength because we have similar personalities, or because we both live and work in areas remote from the competitive big city (he rather more than I)? Maybe it's also true that there's a big, bad competitive world out there and teaching for collaboration and cooperation is sending lambs among wolves . . .