Sunday, 4 August 2013

NCEA, Spoonfeeding and Blooms Taxonomy

Yesterday Fairfax published a story by Jo Moir about students using NCEA assessment resource exemplars as a source of much of what they need to know in order to pass school based assessments. The story suggests one of the key problems is that teachers frequently don't modify the exemplar assessments prior to using them with students, so students can access the 'answers' and memorise them.

Image from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
If this is the case, it seems to me that we have a massive problem with our entire education system. The issue isn't that students can access the 'answers', it goes much deeper than that. Recently I've ended up chatting with a number of people about Blooms Taxonomy and the categories from it that we tend to expect students to operate within. If students are working, and being assessed, at the lower end - remembering, and maybe understanding - then they can conceivably access an exemplar online, memorise it, and do well in the test. But if we are working with students in the evaluating and creating categories then the online exemplars provide nothing more than a structure to guide a learning experience, and there is no way to cheat because new understandings are being generated, rather than old knowledge being regurgitated.

I've been wondering how a student could cheat at producing work for Passionfruit Magazine (Volume Two of which, by the way, is now available), or any similar project based learning, and I think it would be pretty hard to do. Yes, a student could conceivably find an article about an artist and try and pass it off as theirs, but they'd have to set up a fake interview that appeared to give them source material, and then provide multiple drafts that incrementally developed towards the final piece of writing. And then they'd have to do the same with a DPS design, etc, etc. Why would they bother?!

I guess what I'm saying is that if the system is based on students engaging authentically with the world outside of school, and the motivation driving them is to make connections and learn more about how and why the world works like it does, the issue of them giving answers they've copied from elsewhere tends to be nonexistent.

Most of the predictions I've read about the world we're trying to prepare students for suggests that the skills they need come from the 'top' of Blooms Taxonomy, not the lower regions. If we focus on that, the likelihood is that we won't really need to worry about cheating because we'll be generating something new, rather than repeating the old.

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