Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Assessment in any form always interrupts learning

Ohanian Comment: NOTE: This is lifted from an online discussion at PBL and Buck Institute for Education Day 2. It is so refreshing to hear someone speak honestly about assessment. It is a topic most educators pay (dishonest) lip service to. Thank you, Gary Stager.

by Gary Stager

[T]here is no such thing as assessment for learning. Assessment is always for teaching or the system. As I have said in other venues, "assessment in any form always interrupts learning." It is up to the educator to determine the tolerable level of interruption. In any case, it has zero to do with learning.
Assessment is about ranking, sorting, labeling, ass-covering, etc. . . To the extent that it must exist at all, it is the teacher's problem and should be kept as far away from the learner as possible!

I see a lot of professional development advertised as learner-centered, problem based learning (PBL) or progressive where the agenda is really about assessment. This is false advertising.
From a practical standpoint alone, if we need teachers who understand how to teach better in more authentic, learner-centered, PBL-like ways, then why isn't the PD focused on improved teaching.

Spending time instead of assessment (or backward design) seems like the tail wagging the dog.

Assessment has nothing to do with learning. Without a school system, the term assessment would never be used. It would have no meaning.
Indeed, assessment is something done to others. Learners learn, think -- perhaps even reflect, but they donĂ¢€™t assess themselves UNLESS coerced to do so. Learning is a natural act. Assessment is not.

Assessment is a tool the powerful uses to assert their will upon the less powerful (as per your employer example).

By the way, why are you justifying the argument that learning is assessment by citing a workplace example? Are you suggesting that students are workers? Employees?

Is your view of the workplace too narrow? In other words, are there jobs where work product is not measured in the same crummy ways used by school? I donĂ¢€™t share your resignation about parents and assessment. I'm a parent. I don't give an armadillo's ass about it.

I did not say that PBL is about assessment. I did share an observation that lots of PD ABOUT PBL seems disproportionately focused on assessment.

I think teachers learn about PBL by learning in a setting that supports such learning. I share resources and examples here.

I was trying to make a point regarding truth in advertising. If a workshops is sold as being about learning or teaching, then how come so much time is spent on assessment? There is much about good teaching that can be taught.

I describe the elements of a productive context for learning here . (I think this is one of my most important piece of writing in years. It has been largely ignored.)

Rubrics are particularly dishonest and flawed. Read: here and here.

I'll come back to my original point. Assessment always disrupts the learning process. The acceptable level of disruption is between each teacher and her conscience.

— Gary Stager
A Piece of My Mind blog





This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.