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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Wondering about Intellectual Rigour and Engagement

The 2nd Asia-Pacific EducationalAssessment Conference held early in September 2015 in Singapore was intellectually engaging. The conference proceedings were international in scope. I appreciated being able to listen to four other experts in the field of educational assessment as they gave their keynotes on a variety of topics.

Audience members listened attentively and asked thoughtful questions. During the ‘between’ session times, participants were deep in conversation. And, the presenters also had the opportunity to share ideas and perspectives with each other. We were a varied group and the conversation was wide-ranging.

For two packed days, I witnessed educators – teachers and school leaders - engaged in listening and learning about the ‘big picture’ of theory, research and practice in the area of educational assessment for two days.

After the final keynote session was completed and the last thank you’s and good-bye’s said, I found myself wondering about intellectual rigour and engagement.

As I reflected on the conferences I had been attending in North America designed for a similar audience – teachers and school leaders - I wondered if the differences I had noted were substantive in nature.

I wondered…

  • Are we challenging ourselves to look beyond our context or do we just want to be affirmed that we are doing it the ‘right way?’
  • Are we ‘North American centric’ or are we open to learning about educational assessment – theory, practice and research – from elsewhere?
  • Have we become consumers of the “fast food version” of theory, practice and research limited to 140 characters-worth of content? Or are we engaging in the kind of dialog that allows nuances to surface and complexity to be acknowledged?

I continue to reflect now that I’m home.

  • Is my professional reading is more limited than it used to be?
  • Are ‘Google preferences’ seducing me into thinking that I’m right after all my internet searches turn up lots of agreeable information?
  • Am I really challenging myself to be a learner in the complex field of classroom assessment?

It is true that Canadians have passed a ‘tipping point’ when it comes to classroom assessment. There is huge agreement on the importance of using assessment in the service of learning, on triangulating evidence of learning overtime so it is more reliable and valid and of the importance of leaders ‘walking the talk’ and using assessment in the service of adult, school and system learning.

The classroom assessment conversation is moving to a greater focus on ideas related to continuous reporting – How to do it? Who should do it?  How to make technology invisible as we place students and their learning in the center?

These are good questions. They are interesting questions. And yet, I wonder, are they the questions that will help us meet the challenges the future holds?