Last Friday afternoon, when I was just about to walk out of my classroom and head home for the long weekend, there was a knock on the door. My friend and colleague the Spanish teacher was there, and she asked me if I had a moment to help with something that was really troubling her.
An hour or so later, when that “moment” of conversation was over, we’d both received and given what could only be described as an unexpected gift.
My colleague and I have both been moving away from 20th-century teaching for several years, and I don’t think we realized until Friday afternoon how similar our journeys had been. We’ve both abandoned textbooks as primary learning resources; we’ve both embraced all sorts of online tools; we’ve both abandoned written homework, especially for our lower-level students. And we’ve both been struggling with the next big issue: how to change our assessment practices to be in line with our teaching practices.
That is a lot harder than it sounds. I realized I wrote about my own struggles in this post from 2010 … and just this morning, I found articles like this one and this one (and this one by Doug Reeves, which reappeared in my Twitter stream this morning) which confirm that lots of thoughtful people are struggling with the poor fit between 20th-century, compliance-focused assessment and 21st-century teaching and learning.
Why are “we” (the teaching profession as a whole) scared of these conversations?
I’ll tell you what my Spanish colleague and I think we’ve decided to do, but let me save that for another day. On this Labor Day Monday, when Americans remember the labor struggles of our industrial era and take a brief rest from our own labors, I challenge you to pause for a moment and consider this:
Is 20th-century educational grading an Industrial-Era relic that needs to be retired? And if it is, how can we design post-industrial forms of assessment that prepare young learners for the new world as well as 20th-century grading prepared them for the old one?
quid respondētis, amīcī?