polar bear swimming left, turning to face right

Assessment and Generosity

 Published on March 21, 2015 /  Written by , , and /  “poetry in motion” by Valerie; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 /  11

The traditional take on assessment positions the teacher (or the state) as the one with all the answers and asks students to prove that they can figure out what the testers want them to know. Think of AP exams, SATs/ACTs/GREs, and loads of other acronym-derived test names, notably including statewide benchmark testing made widespread in America by No Child Left Behind legislation from 2001. In short, there’s significant inertia behind standardized testing that critical pedagogy needs to address in order to reform traditional education.

In this episode, we’ll return to Kris Shaffer and Asao Inoue to pick up the assessment-focused parts of their conversations that didn’t make it on the air, and we’ll hear from Lee Skallerup Bessette to consider institutional assessment, empathy, and student needs. We’ll look at assessment in music classes and writing classes, classrooms of composition and classrooms of compassion. We’ll find ways of assessing students that prioritize their abilities and new experiences over their ability to do exactly what everyone else has done before them. We’ll ask how we can give students greater authority in the assessment process, and we’ll even address the idea of standards within the context of Critical Digital Pedagogy.

You can subscribe to HybridPod on iTunes and Stitcher. Want us on another directory? Let us know!

Music for this episode by Grégoire Lourme licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Therefore, this episode of HybridPod is licensed for re-use under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Add to the Conversation

11 Responses
  1. Chris Godsey

    Among the mindful student-learning-assessment practitioners and scholars I know–compassionate teachers and researchers who are also critical and radical pedagogues–this just is not true: “The traditional take on assessment positions the teacher (or the state) as the one with all the answers and asks students to prove that they can figure out what the testers want them to know.”

    1. Chris, I absolutely, completely agree with you. It is not true among the compassionate teachers and radical pedagogues. That’s why I offered the comment at the beginning of the episode, to identify the scenario we must push against. Your quote gets it right: It’s the traditional take on assessment — the one that leads to standardized tests and final exams and such — that holds the view I stated there.

      So I think we’re actually saying the same thing. Or did I miss an intention, and there’s still disagreement?

      1. Chris Godsey

        Hey, Chris.

        Thanks for the kind, patient response. My comment could have been much more clear. I’d not had enough coffee, I was confounded by a bunch of assessment ideas and experiences that were crashing around in my head, I was trying to be too concise, and for a few other reasons I just didn’t say what I was trying to say very clearly. I should have waited.

        I think you and I do agree on what sorts of assessment practices and perspectives need to be challenged. We might (emphasize *might*) disagree on a possibly tedious point of vocabulary.

        My limited knowledge and experience (gained through a lot of conversation with my partner, who’s studied assessment for nearly a decade and has worked as a university student-learning-assessment director, and through an assessment theory course I’m currently taking as part of an Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning) suggest that those practices and perspectives we want to challenge don’t necessarily represent the traditional take on assessment.

        I think those practices and perspectives do represent a take on assessment that’s been common among dominance-and-compliance based educators who enforce their institutional and cultural power through manipulating tools and processes. And I think one unfortunate result of that common pattern is that people who know nothing about assessment other than what’s been imposed on them start believing that’s just what assessment IS: it’s dominance and compliance incarnate, and it can’t be anything else.

        But I also think there have traditionally been people whose practices and perspectives represent a different take; those are folks who are always trying to answer the questions mindful learning-assessment asks–What are we hoping will happen? Is it actually happening? If not, what should we change? If so, why?–from a place of compassion, even love.

        Seems as if there are multiple traditions, but the rotten one gets all the play as the standard. That could be a tedious point to try to make but I believe it’s important.

        By this point in the day I’ve had too much coffee, and I apologize if that long, rambly ramble just doesn’t make much sense.

        Thanks again.

        1. Chris –

          Ah, I see. After reading your caffeine-enhanced post, this is what I’m thinking: The problem here is my broad, over-simplified, and uncomplicated use of the word “traditional”, which is personally informed from ten years of work as a K-12 teacher in a state that sold its educational soul to standardized testing years before it was cool. I absolutely love the phrase “dominance-and-compliance-based educators.” If I were to re-record the episode, I would totally use that phrase in place of “traditional”, as it more clearly sets up the distinction I tried to make and avoids the suggestion that there’s only one tradition, or that there’s been no progress to remedy that kind of testing.

          Does the “dominance and compliance” phrasing come from somewhere I should cite/read, or is that a gem of your own creation?

          1. Chris Godsey

            Hi, Chris.

            Regarding dominance and compliance:

            Short answer:
            I’ve never heard anyone else use it the way I often use it, but I’m sure it’s not unique to me.

            Long answer:
            I’ve been an adjunct and instructor-level college writing teacher since the late ’90s. For most of that time I’ve felt troubled by what I see as a sense of entitlement to student compliance–and to enforcing student compliance with various means of punishment and control–shared by a lot teachers at all ranks (even among teachers, me included, who work hard to come from compassionate, humane places).

            For about five years I’ve worked in a Pedagogy of the Oppressed-based critical-dialogue program designed to help men who batter come to consciousness about how their thinking and beliefs support using psychological and physical violence against their wives, girlfriends, kids, and other folks in intimated relationships. In that program we talk a lot about men in many cultures being socialized to consciously or unconsciously feel entitled to expect dominance over and enforce compliance from women.

            We also talk about how the gender socialization that privileges boys and men at the expense of girls and women functions similarly to how white folks learn to expect and enforce deference from people of color, how people with money and education learn to see themselves as superior to folks who don’t have them, and on and on throughout the various hierarchies–including the one that puts teachers above students–we all exist in at various levels.

            Doing that work and thinking has given me some insight and vocabulary that I believe applies to education settings. I’ve actually started taking notes on a piece of writing about those connections that I’m planning to submit to Hybrid Pedagogy.

  2. “the amount of trust that demands from the student is almost incalculable” Great quote from an enjoyable podcast. Your experience of balancing the demands of outcomes versus thinking had me thinking about my own in-process dissertation where I did some focus groups with first year family therapy students who were learning theory in a program that prides itself on collaboration in learning. The students were really struggling in the same way I imagine you were at the time. This has pointed me to pick up Vygotsky’s scaffolding approach as a way through this dilemma. That it is very hard to jump students from the “known & familiar” to the “possible to know,” that some sort of scaffolding could be very helpful in this balancing act.

    Enjoying the page and podcast. Chris

    1. That’s a really fantastic way of looking at it. We don’t usually pay attention to how we deliver our expectations, do we? Your suggestion helps us pay attention to student needs in terms of how we should help create a safe space for experimentation and support students as they learn to set their own goals.

  3. Lisa Dickson

    Dear Chris and Chris,

    This was a really interesting comment thread. I am happy to have been introduced to the “dominance-and-compliance” terminology, and would be *very* interested in reading more about the intersections of educational discourse and the other contexts that Chris Godsey raises.

    (P.S. I guess this is a bit of fan mail, but I do love to see people working through ideas together. Carry on! )

  4. Lee Nickoson

    Thank you for this thoughtful conversation on assessment. I teach a graduate seminar course on writing assessment and have shared this podcast with the class. Assessment and/as compassionate, critical, collaborative pedagogy . . . yes!

Leave a Reply

Explore Related Articles from Hybrid Pedagogy

journal logo (two nested mathematical Unity symbols in light and medium blue) above the following text: “Hybrid Pedagogy: An open-access journal of learning, teaching, and technology”

Open to Chance?

Latest Comments on Hybrid Pedagogy

Hybrid Pedagogy on Twitter

Support Our Work