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?

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