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EDU 6600: Physical Exams vs. Autopsies

November 9, 2009

While the idea of giving students an academic autopsy is somewhat disturbing, it’s sadly not far off the mark for most teachers. I can personally admit that I have been guilty of giving ‘autopsies’ in place of ‘physicals’ on occasion, simply for the fact that it’s a lot easier.

Reading through our postings this week, I noticed a few common trends in the discussion of this topic. One trend is that many teachers automatically canonize ‘autopsies’ as wrong or bad; something to avoid at all costs. What many fail to realize is that this practice of returning little or no feedback that is of actual use is a common educational practice. Granted, we need to shy away from it as we move towards student-centered, autonomous learning environments, but it’s not an easy process. In fact, educational mainstays like the ETS, and other similar institutions rely on this form of grading as their bread and butter. Tests like the WASL and the SAT – which teachers have long been encouraged to prepare students for –  are the best (or worst depending on how you look at it) examples of  ‘autopsy’ reporting. In my mind, when teachers are told to follow these regionally and nationally recognized models it provides a certain measure of justification as to how those teachers should be approaching assessment. As such grade reporting is so widespread and common it would be devastating to eradicate it – or attempt to –  in a short period of time. There are many teachers resistant to the idea of assessments for learning. Additionally, there are those students who would rather just recieve a grade and be done with it. The shift from assessment of learning to assessment for learning is not a simple shift in the way that a teacher provides feedback. It is a fundamental shift at the core of education itself. It not only encourages improvement and progress, but it begs the question: WHY ARE WE TEACHING/LEARNING IN THE FIRST PLACE?

I realize that the whole idea is not a new one, in fact I’m assuming that it has been around in some form since intelligent life existed. While Reeves’ Nintendo example is interesting – the idea that timely feedback is one of the keys to student understanding and progress – more important in my view is the quality of the feedback itself. Teachers need to accept the idea that students need to know WHAT they did right or wrong, not simply the percentage. Rubrics are a step in the right direction, but if teachers dont take the time to truly lay out expectations and explain outcomes, even rubrics won’t be enough. It comes down to teachers accepting not just the idea that “all students can learn, ” but the responsibility to GIVE all students the tools to make that happen.

I realize this was a bit rambling… it’s been a long week.

Plus the Sounders lost. Bummer…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. alumpe permalink
    November 9, 2009 9:47 pm

    Your question, WHY ARE WE TEACHING/LEARNING IN THE FIRST PLACE?really gets at the heart of the issue. Yep, bummer about the Sounders!

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