How can we measure learning? Week 2 #rhizo15

Data or it didn’t happen.

— Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay) April 18, 2015

How can we measure learning? Can we measure learning? Define learning. What did I learn today? I learned about the Australian Indigenous artist, Vernon Ah Kee.

Ah Kee is also part of the Proppa Now group and is one of the most political aboriginal artists of his time.

The above is from his 2002 collection titled “If I was White”. I was interested in reading the transcript.

6×5 A4 grids transcribed L-R, downwards:

If I was White
I could walk down the street
and people would pay no particular
attention to me.

It may not seem like much
but if you’ve ever had
a shopkeeper tell you to
Buy something or move on, or
simply follow you around the shop,
it’s significant.

If I was White
people would speak to me.

Wouldn’t you feel a little lonely
if you were the only White person
in a new school
and nobody including the teacher
understood you or your culture?

If I was White
I would think like a White Person.

If I was White
I would believe myself to be equal
to anyone.

If I was White
I would be more likely
to live longer.

If I was White
I would be less likely
to spend time behind bars.

If I was White
just think of all the names
I wouldn’t have been called.

If namecalling does not seem
all that serious to you
then you haven’t heard the names
I’ve been called.

If I was White
a lot of the fights I’ve been in
would not have been my fault.

If I was White
I wouldn’t have been in so many fights.

If I was White
I would not be part of the Stolen Generation.

If I was White
I would have been counted in the Census since 1901.

If I was White
I could live, shop, and socialise
wherever I want.

If you’ve walked into Real Estate
Agencies where houses and units
To Let suddenly become Taken,
and just as suddenly become
Available when you leave, then
you know what I’m talking about.

If I was White
I would be accepted.

If I was White
I could group together
all the people who don’t
look like me
into their own separate
communities.

If I was White
I could accept a life of privilege,
wealth, and power
that the exploitation of Black
People has brought me
without even blinking.

If I was White
I could stand back,
walk on by, sit on the fence,
and do nothing.

If I was White
I would think I have every right
to be here.

If I was White
I would fit in.

If I was White
I would not have to live in a country that hates me.

If I was White
I would have a country.

If I was White
I could say This land
has been in my family
for three generations.

If I was White
I could say My family
have lived on this land
for two hundred years.

If I was White
I could say My father worked hard
to buy this land.

If I was White
I could buy bandaids
the same colour as my skin.

What if all bandaids were black?

If I was White
and in an accident, I would be
wrapped in white bandages.

If I was White
I wouldn’t be asked if I was
Fullblood, Half-caste, or part White.

If I was White
I would not hear other White People
say to me You don’t look like you
have alot of White in you, or
You don’t look White.

If I was White
my fair skin
would not be such an issue
with other White People.

If I was White
it would be okay
to claim to be White.

If I was White
I wouldn’t have to claim to be White
just to get a job.

If I was White
I would be taken at my word.

Try accepting everything written
here as being true
simply because I say it is.

If I was White
I could really identify with
Australian TV Soaps.

If I was White
I could really identify with
Australian TV Advertising.

If I was White
popular Australian newspapers
would print what I want to read.

If you don’t think so
then count how many Black People
appear in the weekend social
pages.

If I was White
I could go to church
and Jesus Christ would
look like me.

Imagine Christ images all over the
world being black.

If I was White
I would not have to be smart
to keep a good job.

If I was White
I would have more chance
of getting a job.

If I was White
I could wear a suit and tie
and not look suspicious.

If I was White
I could own a luxury vehicle
and not look suspicious.

If I was White
I could shop in luxury stores
and not look suspicious.

If I was White
I could walk
in a white neighbourhood
and not look suspicious.

If I was White
I could dye my hair blonde
and it would not look strange.

If I was White
I could have blue eyes
and it would not look strange.

If I was White
I could marry another White person
and it would not look strange.

If I was White
I would have a better chance of becoming PM.

If I was White
I could write history any way I please.

If I was White
ignorance could be my excuse.

If I was White
I would have nothing to fear
from Police.

If I was White
I would not have to explain
the things I say.

If I was White
the world would make
more sense to me.

If I was White
I could make myself believe
that Black People were evil.

If I was White
I could shelter my children from
the evil that exists in the world.

If I was White
I could lie to my children about
the evil that exists in the world.

But I am Black
and I am as misunderstood as the next Blackfella

but I am beginning to understand the White Men.

What did you learn from that text art by Vernon Ah Kee? Does it make you curious to  know more? Does your understanding shift into another context? Are you thinking about this in a broader sense? How did you feel when you were reading this? How did you feel when you were thinking about it?  How would you assess the learning during all of that?

Give yourself a mark out of ten. Make sure you address the outcomes which sit neatly in lines next to their dot points. Don’t forget to ignore everything that is not neatly summarised by these points. Don’t go including the metacognition.  Make sure you toss all those airy fairy ‘what if…’ thoughts. Don’t even think about including the way you felt when you were reading the text; that’s not important and we can’t be getting all touchy feely when we’re assessing serious learning outcomes.

So, back to Dave.

Dave:

Learning is a non-counting noun.  It’s not something we should worry about counting, I don’t think measuring it makes any sense. Once that’s done, what can we measure? Dig into the possibilities of measurement. What can we use to send to administrators? Some way of talking about using all these numbers and  How can we map out the rhizome? a tool for people to map out their own rhizome.  I understand this conflicts with the freedom but work with that.

Really. This is hard. If I knew how to do that …

Taking a look at my own learning which has taken place in MOOCs lately – Connected Courses and now Rhizo15…

If we are talking about connected learning rather than the consumption of learning then counting is no longer useful. You can’t ‘count’ connected learning but connected learning does count. Turn it on its head. It counts. Show it, write about it, share it, discuss it – make it transparent. There it is; you can see it for yourself.

Learning is complex. Yes, we could map it. But… there’s so much to take into account. It’s giving me a headache. Big data.  That term gets bandied about a bit lately. Looking it up on Wikipedia gives me a bigger headache. (Not sure where I saw this image; someone shared it on Twitter?)

And don’t forget –

As I’ve said in a previous blog post, Einstein, Newton, Edison, Tolstoy, Pasteur, Lincoln – these are only some of the notable gifted people throughout history who were assessed as failures in school.

How could that happen? Is it happening now? How reliable are our methods of assessment? One thing I know – we should definitely assess assessment.

Dave Cormier, I can’t answer your question. Fail me.

 

25 thoughts on “How can we measure learning? Week 2 #rhizo15”

    1. Thanks Autumm but I think I avoided the answer. It was killing me thinking about how to respond to this one!

      1. I was in the same situation, and I ended up jumping from idea to idea in my post.
        I like how you… didn’t answer to Dave’s question 😀 – and I agree, we should definitely assess assessment. Actually, should we ostracise it? It would be interesting!

        1. Hi Annalisa! Jumping is unavoidable, surely. I really do wish we could collaboratively rewrite assessment for secondary (and possibly higher ed) in a serious way so we could actually present it to the educational powers that be.

          1. Here it is…
            I was in the same situation, and I ended up jumping from idea to idea in my post.
I like how you… didn’t answer to Dave’s question – and I agree, we should definitely assess assessment. Actually, should we ostracise it? It would be interesting!

  1. nice one Tania ! really made me laugh out loud, twice – first at the paragraph telling me to give my reading a mark out of ten and don’t pay attention to anything ‘outside the text’, and second when you asked the teacher to fail your writing for not answering the question…. a classic piece 😉

    1. no make that three – the quote from shit academics say – what a great line that is too: data or it didn’t happen. if only they were joking…

      and how good is Vernon’s piece! – thanks for spreading that one too! my daughter recently did an assignment on him and Ricky Maynard, such powerful representations

      1. If only. I’m researching Vernon and other Indigenous artists from proppaNOW for the art teachers. So much great learning for me!

  2. You’re brilliant Tania. I am not sure anyone has answered Dave better than you jusy did! Then again, i haven’t read too many of the blogposts this week yet – fail me? Haha

    Loooooved the poem. So so so much. Vernon Ah Lee. Will remember that name.

    Thank you for being awesome. I just wrote on facebook that i always loved ur writing thru ccourses and moocmooc (u forgot to “count” moocmooc haha) but rhizo15 seems to have inspired you to a new level of writing creativity. I am so fortunate to know you and so privileged to read you. Thanks for the brilliance you share

  3. Maha, you always give me such support by saying lovely things! Writing out thoughts has become so much more satisfying through moocs which give open ended prompts, and then there are all the different posts saying things in their own way. It’s inspiring, and great to be read and to get responses. Your generous responses encourage me to find my own voice in writing.
    You say you haven’t read many responses but I’m inspired by how many people’s posts you do read and share, comment on. When I feel overwhelmed by the number of things to read I just go to Twitter and see who you’ve read and recommended. Thanks for being a light amongst the crowd.

  4. I have just come from the radio play to this…and can second Maha’s statement that You Are Brilliant. Love the way you have shared Vernon’s work – which is brilliant, thought provoking, FEEL provoking in itself…and then used that to show up the holes in attempts to ‘measure learning’ and assessing learning outcomes. The bit about the dot points – brilliant!! Thanks for the inspiration. I’m glad I checked the rhizo15 hashtag tonight!!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Tanya. I’m definitely not brilliant but really overjoyed to have feedback and a community to share things with and learn with.

  5. Beautiful insights well said here, Tania. I think that the piece by Vernon Ah Lee is measuring us, or rather, it provides us a span by which to measure ourselves, a characteristic of most of the great literature that I have read. This may be one of the defining characteristics of great literature—that it opens room for us to measure ourselves.

    1. Good point, Keith. I’ll have to keep that idea – great art/literature measures us. I’ve started researching this contemporary artist so it’s great to be able to show some of his work.

    1. Hi Susan, thank you for the feedback. I’ll have to tell the art teacher I’m doing this research for that the learning has not been contained to her students. Great to be able to showcase an Australian Indigenous artist and get such a response.

    1. Yes! And we talk about our students trying to get into Medicine, wondering if they will pass the test which measures their social/emotional skills. Meanwhile the boys are often too busy doing maths to have any time to appreciate literature or art or music.

  6. I am reading of the riots in Baltimore here in the US and thinking of this line:

    If I was White
    I would have nothing to fear
    from Police.

    We’ve been talking about race and civil rights in my classroom because we just finished a powerful novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, and it’s a difficult conversation to have with 11 and 12 year mostly white kids from surburbia.

    I won’t even get into the grading of our reaction … it’s beyond the scale …

    Kevin

  7. Some questions cannot (and maybe should not) be answered. You get an A from me, if I can measure your depth of thought and analysis, and for showing your work.

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