guest written by Justin Ballou
Many times, I have heard this sentiment (It’s not like that in the real world!) echoed about education, teachers, and the environment of school altogether. So, it is only fitting to begin this blog post in one manner…
Ok… grab a piece of paper, and pen or pencil and let me know when you are ready.
Good. What I would like you to do is think of a profession that we have in the United States or abroad. Any profession that you little heart desires. Got one? Ok….write it down and underline it.
Now below it, I want you to write 3 things that are necessary to be successful in that profession. I will give you a sec…
Have three? Ok……Looking at your profession, we are going to assume that you have doctor, (or some iteration of the medical profession, because, frankly, it comes up 4 out of 5 times I do this little quiz).
Now, keeping in mind that list of things below the profession you chose, imagine that you are laying on the table of your surgeon and have just been administered anesthesia. As you slowly count down from 100, you feel your eyes getting heavy, and senses becoming distorted. As you hold on to the last bit of consciousness that you have, you hear the surgeon say something along the lines of….
“So, in medical school, I was really good at the whole cutting part of the operation….can identify the parts of the body….but when it comes to sewing, I BOMBED! But, it is quite alright nurse, you see, I received a passing average….so I was able to obtain my medical license!”
Is this how it works in the real world? No. Of course not. When a professional or individual has been certified in their respected field, they have shown that they are capable in ALL components of their education. This way, we know that the surgeon can cut, identify organs, locate the problems, analyze the situation, provide a solution, and sew the patient back up.
Seems accurate when you think about it, huh?
Then why do we settle for anything less when assessing our students? Our traditional model of teaching and assessment provides a general score. One that relates individual abilities on a mean that really doesn’t paint a picture of either the knowledge or skills that a student has when they walk out of the classroom.
As both a teacher and a citizen, this idea that we will settle for a 75%, (average in the hypothetical world) which could boil down to a student that can memorize enough terms to get a 90 in knowledge, but can leave with poor communication skills or higher order thinking skills boggles my mind!
If we are preparing our student population to become positive members of society with knowledge, skills in the higher order cognitive realms, (such as organization, evaluation, analysis,) and the ability to research valuable and legitimate information to act as evidence to support ideas, we need to start assessing ALL areas in which we can identify student strengths and weaknesses. If they do not make the grade in just ONE of those things, we need to do the responsible, (but difficult) task of keeping them there until they can show competence in the major components of the ultimate goal. Only then can we truly ensure that those that leave our classrooms and educational institutions are ready, willing, and able to be the best that they can be for society in general.
Looking back at your own profession, would you want someone that is helping you out to be missing one of those abilities you have listed? Probably not. So, like in the real world, we need to start doing this in school so that we know that when those young adults do receive that hallowed document that reads “diploma,” that it means something; that we certify that the student is ready to tackle whatever it is that is coming next for him or her.
About the author: Justin Ballou is a high-school Social Studies teacher in New Hampshire. Besides teaching, he is active running an education startup called EduTech and enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife. With edtech and authentic learning as his go-to topics, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions or leave comments and follow him on twitter (@nhjbteach).