The Hidden Messageby Brian Bennett on 11/21/2011
I had an interesting conversation with our pre-service teacher this morning concerning a make up quiz she had given to her chemistry class. In short, the learner used "ammonia" for her answer to the prompt "NH3." In chemistry, this is perfectly acceptable as "ammonia" is used regularly, even though it is a common term for a substance. It is widely recognized and the learner demonstrated her knowledge.
The teacher was not planning on giving credit for the answer because it "was a lucky guess." I asked this teacher if she gave instructions not to use common names or other synonyms, and she said no. This, of course, led to a discussion about what we're really trying to assess in classes.
Are we asking kids to take in and repeat a specific response? Or are we asking kids to demonstrate their knowledge? If we are pushing for freedom in learning, there should there be freedom in demonstration. Changes in a system cannot be isolated from one another. We cannot expect kids to think freely and creatively when learning the content and then try to stifle the creativity or independent thinking when it comes to assessment.
I don't know if she'll take my advice or even think about what I was trying to get across. Everything we do sends a message to learners, parents, and other teachers. Think about the message you are sending in everything you do and continue to work hard for a better system.