Knowing The Learner Chapter 1 Review

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Paul Zachos 3 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #1285

    Ptaylor1994
    Keymaster

    Hello Everyone, glad to be here! I have slowly been working through Knowing The Learner and typing up my thoughts on each chapter. I wanted to share them here and see if people had anything to add. Thanks!

    I found this chapter to be very engaging as it piqued my interest. While this sort of text, in my experience, can be very dry and a slog to get through, I found that this first chapter was easy to get through, while still being thorough enough to give me a solid grasp on the topic. I also felt that that the content was understandable to someone like myself who has little experience in this area, while also not feeling like I was being talked down to. I’ve had time to sleep on my thoughts due to the holidays and even a few days later I still feel like the information has tuck with me and is something I would recommend to people interested.

    Most everything in the chapter seemed clear, but I did have one major question relating to the concept of accomplishment-based grading. I’m reading a lot of “Cans” about accomplishment-based grading, but what “Has, Is or Does”? The overuse of can makes themes seem either hypothetical or inconsistent. Does this work most of the time or can it work in certain scenarios?
    I did have a number of concerns that came up throughout the chapter, mainly relating to certain hypothetical scenarios.
    On Cubes and Liquids:
    What’s to stop a student from just putting no effort into the assignment? If they complete it, use sentences and clear handwriting that is passing, but what if they did not try at all?
    What if students are getting all the wrong answers? – Answered for myself, that is used in assessing them for what to teach more of in the future
    Students at each end of the bell curve: While I can see things like Cubes and Liquids working with most students, what about those on the edge of the bell curve? The most advanced students may not feel like they need to put in effort to something they already know, while those who struggle might feel overwhelmed with having little direction to work with.
    Questions about Science Research in the High School:
    What if a student has been consistently meeting goals throughout the course but at the end of the semester had not completed the project due to scope of project, improper goal setting or other problems?
    What about student who do all their work on their own and are getting work done but not being observed?
    How do we ensure that students are setting realistic goals that are both attainable and require effort?

    Overall I found myself agreeing with most of the points made within the chapter. As someone who was recently a High School student and is still being graded on my work towards my master’s degree, I can see how accomplishment-based grading would be an improvement for the students. However, I feel the chapter did not go into much detail on that front. While there was discussion on how Educational Assessment is better than traditional grading systems for teachers, I feel there could have been more on why this is good for students. While by no means an expert in the area, my knowledge of policy implementation has always used a client-centered approach. Even if we could get every teacher on board for the sort of grading system discussed in this chapter, we could not implement it if parents and policy makers were interested. By adding some information on how this process improves student outcomes, I think it makes the information much more compelling for non-educators. At the same time, providing this information would allow educators interested in this change to more easily get parent buy-in. High Risk learning was a great phrase that helped me to better understand my own experiences but will do nothing for those parents whose students are doing well in the current system, parents who are also, in my experience, more likely to be involved with the school. Another thing that I think would be useful is adding in more information on the Cubes and Liquids experiment instructions. One of the first things I did when finishing the chapter was check the appendix to see if the experiment was contained there and was disappointed it was not.

  • #1289

    Monica De Tuya
    Moderator

    First I will say – what fun this is! Every time I re-read KTL, and every time I have the privilege of witnessing someone experience KTL for the first time, I feel like new insights, connections, and revelations are made. Thank you, Patrick, for taking this journey!

    Now, onto my specific responses:

    With regards to the book in general:

    “I would recommend to people interested” –> I am curious who you think would be interested…in other words, in your opinion, who is the audience for this book? Who do you think would find it of value? And why?

    With regards to accomplishment-based grading:

    “Does this work most of the time or can it work in certain scenarios?” –> I will turn this (perhaps rhetorical) question back to you and ask: what do you think? Would it take a certain scenario for this particular approach to work, and if so, what do you think this scenario would be? What would help facilitate the success of an accomplish-based grading approach, and what would hinder it? I have my own thoughts and research to draw upon about the answer to your question, specifically with regards to the can it work. And I think the content in KTL provides some guidance here as well. I suspect that Paul has more expertise in terms of the research that tells us does it work. But I would like to hear more from you first!

    With regards to C&L:

    “What’s to stop a student from just putting no effort into the assignment?” –> Indeed. Why should they try at all? I think the chapter gave some explicit and implicit answers to this question, or rather, suggested the context or situation under which this would be more likely that they would try at all. What do you think? (For instance, I think this speaks to the “transparency, motivation, fairness” indicators, brought up in reference to Robert Pavlica’s class.)

    “What if students are getting all the wrong answers? what about those on the edge of the bell curve?” –> As part of your ACASE on-boarding experience, you will have the opportunity to experience C&L firsthand, as a student would. I would be interested to circle back to your questions/comments after that and see what you have to say!

    With regards to Questions about Science Research in the High School:

    You asked three very important and interesting questions. I would argue that as you proceed through the book, you will have the ability to answer these questions. I do not know if there is actually one answer to them, or even a right answer to them, but I believe that based on our work, there is an ACASE answer to each of these questions…

    With regards to your last paragraph:

    This is an interesting and important paragraph for many reasons. I appreciate how you internalized the content, making it personal and applicable to your educational experiences. It is fascinating to me how this book inspires that type of reflection – it happened to me as well. There are two additional points that struck me in your comments here:

    1) for you, the emphasis seemed to be on how this is “good” for teachers…when I re-read this chapter, I saw more this time of how it is “good” for students! I am curious – did you see anything or can you extrapolate anything to answer your own question, of why this is good for students, of how this process improves student outcomes?

    2) The point you raise about getting people “on board” is a critical one. I will use the word “stakeholders” – in any educational endeavor there are most certainly many different and many levels of stakeholders. But it goes deeper than this, to a recurring theme/point not only in this book (e.g. the preface, p. 10 & 12) but in all of ACASE’s work…and you actually allude to it in your reflections here. That is the connection of assessment information (and all the processes and activities wrapped up in assessment information) to community building. What are your thoughts on that?

  • #1290

    Paul Zachos
    Moderator

    Thank you, Patrick, for this sincere and thoughtful review of Chapter I.

    Your review of the 1st chapter succeeds in bringing to the fore many of the most critical issues and persistent problems that dog the field of educational assessment and evaluation, precisely the issues and problems that Knowing the Learner (KTL) is directed to address. I believe that as you progress through the book you will be able to come up with sound and productive answers on your own, so for now I will concentrate on points you have discovered that we may not have addressed adequately or sufficiently in the text.

    Accomplishment Based Grading, and its radical thesis concerning the divorce of grading from assessment dwells primarily, as you point out, in the realm of ‘can be’ rather than ‘is’ or ‘does’ although is viability can be demonstrated in practice in at least two cases — Robert Pavlica’s High School Science Research Program and our own course, EA&E online, which teaches the fundamentals of educational assessment and evaluation. The changes in thinking and practice that would be required to put accomplishment based grading into effect in conventional educational settings is formidable and that, I believe, is why we do not see more of it. However the critical point to keep in mind is that the existing grading systems are not actually productive in serving truly educational purposes and so turn out to be both ineffective and inhumane. Something else is needed. Accomplishment Based Grading points the way to the requirements for rational, efficient and humane practices in educational assessment and evaluation.

    Regarding the assessment activity Cubes and Liquids, you pose the question of what happens if the student does not engage fully in the activity, or perhaps does not make any effort at all. This is as deep and far ranging a problem as one can imagine and is worth a chapter or a book in and of itself. However, if I am correct, it does not have to do specifically with Cubes and Liquids but is a question that can be posed regarding any task whatsoever assigned in an educational setting.

    Regarding the application of the notion of the ‘Bell Curve ’ to understanding what is happening with teachers and students in the activity of Cubes and Liquids we must consider another central thesis of our work. This is our requirement that the use of information in educational programs be educationally productive. The nature of this requirement will be defined precisely in Chapter II. For now consider the following question — How does the application of the notion of the bell curve help us to achieve an educational purpose in the context of the Cubes and Liquids activity?

    Your questions concerning the science research course, e.g. ‘How do we ensure that students are setting realistic goals that are both attainable and require effort?” and what if students are “consistently meeting goals but at the end of the semester had not completed the project due to scope of project, improper goal setting or other problems.” These would be legitimate concerns in almost any conventional instructional program. Significantly, and very much to the point, these are not problems in the science research course as designed and realized by Bob Pavlica. This is because of the intensive assessment and evaluation that characterizes the course. Student work is continually being ‘observed’ and what is observed is used as the basis for moving forward in a way that does not allow any student to ‘slip through the cracks’.

    Returning to Accomplishment Based Grading, you say
    “By adding some information on how this process improves student outcomes, I think it makes the information much more compelling for non-educators. At the same time, providing this information would allow educators interested in this change to more easily get parent buy-in.”

    This is precisely our intention, and so the fact that you need to point it out suggests that we did not present it as clearly as was needed. So how does accomplishment based grading relate to improving student outcomes? Built into accomplishment based grading is the idea that the justification for the assignment of any instructional activity is that engaging in that activity will lead to the attainment of intended learning outcomes. This is an essential feature underlying accomplishment based grading as it relates to the improvement of student outcomes.

    But in the end this is, as Jean Piaget used to say, ‘an empirical question’. We believe it ‘can’ do so, but ‘will’ accomplishment based grading actually lead to greater effectiveness and humaneness in educational programs? How do we demonstrate that accomplishment based grading can help to ‘improve student outcomes’, and have its other intended effects. Later in Knowing the Learner we address how to lay the foundations for educational research that could begin to answer just such a question.

  • #1293

    Ptaylor1994
    Keymaster

    Hello all, i’ve combined my responses to both of you in a single post.

    With regards to the book in general:
    Note: While I looked back on my original notes, I tried to not consult KtL itself in making these notes. That is partially to avoid influencing my answers, and partially to see what knowledge was retained after the initial reading.
    “I would recommend to people interested”  I am curious who you think would be interested…in other words, in your opinion, who is the audience for this book? Who do you think would find it of value? And why?
    So far, I see the primary audience being educators or students training to be educators. I can certainly see how other people could enjoy the book but would not call them the audience. I have a friend working on his Master’s in Museum Studies and think that he would both enjoy it and take something away from it. I see educators and those in adjacent fields finding this book valuable because the book is full of things that educators themselves can apply. Of course this is all just from the first chapter, I will try to revisit this question when I have finished the full book.

    With regards to accomplishment-based grading:
    “Does this work most of the time or can it work in certain scenarios?”  I will turn this (perhaps rhetorical) question back to you and ask: what do you think? Would it take a certain scenario for this particular approach to work, and if so, what do you think this scenario would be? What would help facilitate the success of an accomplish-based grading approach, and what would hinder it? I have my own thoughts and research to draw upon about the answer to your question, specifically with regards to the can it work. And I think the content in KTL provides some guidance here as well. I suspect that Paul has more expertise in terms of the research that tells us does it work. But I would like to hear more from you first!
    I certainly believe that this approach could work in many classroom scenarios. My concern comes less from a question of “where” and more of a question of “Does it work”. Paul addressed this in his write up, but my problem was more a lack of concreteness. I absolutely believe that accomplishment-based learning can work and there are the two examples in chapter one that talk about it. But do to the limited number of real-world examples, it can begin to draw doubts about the efficacy of the program. To kind of turn things around for a second, my concern could be rephrased closer to “What has accomplished-based grading accomplished?” I understand that the research we do have indicated that it works, but have yet to see the real world examples that really blow me away. Is almost a seeing is believing type problem, I believe that this could work, but others might require more definitive proof, real examples beyond the two briefly mentioned in the chapter.
    With regards to C&L:
    “What’s to stop a student from just putting no effort into the assignment?”  Indeed. Why should they try at all? I think the chapter gave some explicit and implicit answers to this question, or rather, suggested the context or situation under which this would be more likely that they would try at all. What do you think? (For instance, I think this speaks to the “transparency, motivation, fairness” indicators, brought up in reference to Robert Pavlica’s class.)
    I think that the hands-on nature of the experiment is certainly a large factor in getting students on board to participate. The lack of traditional grading also means that students who would normally be hesitant out of fear of failure may be more likely to participate. However, I still believe that students who do not care about the content of the lesson would not put in their best effort. I also am curious how the assessment used in Cubes and Liquids would apply to less unique programs, not all competencies can be demonstrated in such an interesting way.
    Ah the bell curve…! Now it is my turn to ask you a question. What does it mean for a student to be at one end or the other of the bell curve with respect performance on C&L. This is a question of utmost seriousness and one which I believe you can answer based on the content of Chapter I. You will be even better able to answer it however after having experienced C&L for yourself.
    When I referred to the bell curve in my comment, I was thinking more of the bell curve in a traditional grading system. If we look at the bell curves that exist in that system and apply them to the C&L grading schema I theorize that what we would see is as follows. Those students who we would say are in the top percent according to a traditional model not be helpful in showing what needs to be reinforced, as they would likely have a better understanding of all the concepts at play than their peers. On the other hand, those who we would consider on the other end of the bell curve would struggle with all aspects of the lesson and similarly give no useful data on what does or does not need to be reinforced. Of course this is a more extreme example, but it still seems to me that a fair number of students would have no impact one way or the other during the assessment of what needs to be done in future lessons.
    for you, the emphasis seemed to be on how this is “good” for teachers…when I re-read this chapter, I saw more this time of how it is “good” for students! I am curious – did you see anything or can you extrapolate anything to answer your own question, of why this is good for students, of how this process improves student outcomes?
    I certainly see how this would be better for students in the long-term, as it would better educate them and set them up for success in the future. However, such long term benefits are often less important to students than the immediate ones. I do also believe that there would be less stress put on students based on the grading criteria, but do worry about it a bit. As someone who has had severe anxiety problems in the past, it can be very difficult to separate yourself from your work. If a teacher at any point told me that they were going to watch me and how well I understood the concepts would have no impact on my grade, I would be very skeptical and now more nervous about the unknown. If I have a test, I at least know what the consequences of my answers will be. With the assessment shown in C&L the future is much more uncertain, and the human mind fears nothing more than the unknown.
    The point you raise about getting people “on board” is a critical one. I will use the word “stakeholders” – in any educational endeavor there are most certainly many different and many levels of stakeholders. But it goes deeper than this, to a recurring theme/point not only in this book (e.g. the preface, p. 10 & 12) but in all of ACASE’s work…and you actually allude to it in your reflections here. That is the connection of assessment information (and all the processes and activities wrapped up in assessment information) to community building. What are your thoughts on that?
    I’m not sure I entirely understand your question but will do my best to answer it. If we can get information about our assessment practices and research to a school, we need to get it to the entire school. While getting it to a single teacher is always good, what would be best is if we could get people on every level of the school. If we have parents, teachers, administrators, school board and (ideally) local government all interested in using our systems, it will be much easier to actually enact the needed changes in every way. If we have just teachers interested, they will face pushback from the administration about what the school district is looking for, if we have just administrators interested, there will be pushback from teachers who don’t want to change their ways. If we have just students interested then there will be pushback all around for people thinking they are just looking for an easier grade, and if we have just parents then the school will see it as a passing trend. While there will still be pushback under any circumstances, having stakeholders on every level means there is positive pressure coming from every level. No matter what, there will be teachers who aren’t going to be interested in changing their ways. But when they are facing pressure from the administration and parents, and all of their colleagues are using our system, then those teachers who don’t want to change really have no choice.

  • #1316

    Paul Zachos
    Moderator

    Patrick,

    Thank you for your extensive follow up comment. I have found it valuable to review what you have written both to evaluate what we have presented but also to have a peek into how a person who is looking into our work for the first time might react.

    The big message that I take from what you have said is that proposals like accomplished based grading are interesting but what do they actually achieve when put into effect? This is indeed the critical question to be posed once one the basic concept has been understood.

    I look forward now to reading your comments on the second chapter.

    Paul

  • #1324

    Paul Zachos
    Moderator

    Hi Patrick,

    If more people approach Knowing the Learner with the seriousness, thoughtfulness and insight that you have contributed I believe that we will be building a strong foundation for constructive change in educational practice.

    Your review has definitely led to improvements in how I think about and give expression to the underlying issues that we are concerned with. For example Your discussion on community illustrates a basic principle that we value but have only lightly mentioned in the book —  the human system dynamics that operate in educational communities when assessment and evaluation are carried out. I have recently been learning more about this through the work of Patterson, Holladay and Eoyang
    https://smile.amazon.com/Radical-Rules-Schools-Adaptive-Complex/dp/0615766269/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1AXSIL7BZVVIJ&keywords=radical+rules+for+schools&qid=1562013492&s=books&sprefix=radical+rules%2Caps%2C135&sr=1-2

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