Assessment: do we really need it?


Yes ... thanks for asking, coats are by the door, see you next week.


Oh, you're sticking around a while? Great! Take a seat and we'll take a look together.


Preface: this series of posts are designed for the readers with an interest in assessment as a subject, they act as an opinion piece on assessment issues and practices and are based on my personal experiences as an educator, my studies at University College of London and the work of Dylan Wiliam, Gordon Stobart and Daisy Christodoulou.


My aim is to make assessment more accessible to everyone, so the following will be broad, engaging and peppered with (hopefully) humorous anecdotes.


Lets get to it


Assessment gets a bad rep. For some, assessment is a dirty four letter word and probably comes directly out the south end of a very full bull.

And I get that, I truly do, most people don't encounter assessment in a good way. It's thrust upon them, or worse forced on them with all the grace of a spotty, greasy basement dwelling teenager - the kind who snorts derisively, pushes up their glasses and says "well...<snort> technically...its 3.1415...<snort>"


We know that being on the sharp end of too much assessment can makes us stressed, anxious and downright ill. But it hasn't always been this way and maybe it doesn't have to be. Let's grab that bull by the horns and turn it the right way 'round.


What is assessment?


Assessment, at its core, is about trying to make sense of what's happening.


Assessment is meant to be a search for values that are meaningful and the result is meant to be a demonstration of that potential value.

Think of assessment like this:


Assessment is a tool that we use to try and reach an understanding. So picking the right tool, for the right job is essential - you wouldn't use a hammer for a screw, or a spanner for open heart surgery...at least I hope not.


But as we know any tool, in the wrong hands, can become a weapon

& even more, a tool in the right hands can be forced to be used it in the wrong way.


Picture this


You're a four year old kid, and you see a butterfly for the very first time "what the hell is this thing?' Is it a bug? Is it a bird? Look at those colours! Did someone shrink down the 'mardi gras' this year?"


You really don't know much and dammit it keeps fluttering about the place - so what do you do? You try to catch it, put it in a jar and have a look. Now you can see it's got two long leggy-arm things on top of its head - like a pair of those unconvincing alien bobbles - what's that about?...

Now you notice that its wings aren't just brightly coloured, they're shiny, I mean REALLY shiny, like way more than your poor ol' dad's balding head - what's that about?...



You've just got to get a closer look


So you get a magnifying glass "wow thats weird - sometimes they shine and sometimes they don't" you tip the jar a bit and notice it's something to do with the way the light hits it - what's that about?


Now you've grown up a bit and you get some money for your birthday and you splurge it all on an electron microscope - you don't ask where your dad got the money - he's probably part of a criminal underworld, or an investment banker...


But now you can really see something cool, the wing isn't just one thing, it's lots of things - it's made of teeny tiny scales, "is this what the colours all about?"

Now you're a full grown up, congratulations, you're a lepidopterist! and there's not a single leopard in sight!. You slap on a lab coat and study as many butterflies as you can - you've got the best equipment, a team of dedicated professionals and after jumping through a few hoops, you landed the funding to support your passion.


Finally you can scratch that curiosity itch.


Side Note: if you want to scratch your itch,

check this video out from the brilliant

'It's ok to be Smart' series

This is the heart of assessment


Now we can talk about different methods and techniques - 'Qualitative; and 'Quantitative' analysis - 'Phenomenological, Ethnographic and Grounded Theory (i'll save this for another post) . But these are all just a series of lenses for your proverbial microscope - a tool to answer the question what's that all about?


That sounds great! - what are the issues?


Join us in the next post to discover 'What's the problem with Assessment?'

and in the meantime, don't forget to:


Listen, Learn Stand-up & Speak.

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