The readings and watchings this week helped me to broaden my perspective with regard to assessment in education. I liked the assessment tips provided by Alfie Kohn, particularly the portfolio approach. And I also liked Dan Pink’s formulation of motivation as the collection of three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. I feel like, the main take-away from this class is that teaching is a form of art. Instruct your class as if you’re cooking, painting, knitting or sculpturing. Thou instruct your class like you are performing a piece of art.
First, intend to produce the piece of art (cheesecake, or class), then choose good ingredients (chocolate chips, cream cheese, or readings, watchings, discussion topics) that can produce your expected outcomes in the best way possible (cheesecake with a chocolate swirl, or knowledge and ideas with good judgment, and empathy skills). Then, mix the ingredients in an integrated amount and order with a sensitivity of an artist who is aware of the science of the ingredients (a piece of salt balances the sweetness of cheesecake, and provides a grounded taste, or balanced scheduling of the readings, assignments and assessments provides the chunk of knowledge to be built in an integrated, grounded way). And as for the delish, put a piece from your soul, as Thomas Keller says, “A recipe has no soul. As the cook, one must bring soul to the recipe.” Then, finally, enjoy the view (Bonappetit <3).
What particularly leads me to the art metaphor with regard to teaching is that the more I dive into the class materials, the more I’m realizing the essentiality of balancing the process and content in the educational context. Although in today’s performance culture, it is very easy to regard everything as pieces or art, we can identify the good art by sensing the internalized knowledge mixed with creativity on the piece. What makes the class good (inspiring, memorable, effective, meaningful) is not only having/transferring the scientific (or conceptual) knowledge about the “stuff” but also (re)creating the knowledge by adding individuality, creativity, uniqueness -soul. As a micro piece of teaching, I feel like assessment also reflects this principle: It is about knowing the basics, the nature of the basics, integrating the knowledge of basics in a creative, soulful way and coming up with a unique, individualized understanding.
I strongly believe that the ideas are formed on the basis of solid conceptual back-grounds. So, in my classes 60% of the students’ grades comes from the conceptual assessment, including exams and quizzes. They can choose how to fulfill (if they want to) the remaining 40% of their grades, from a menu of assignments including reflective assignments based on volunteering in class relevant settings, attending conferences, meetings or workshops, preparing presentations, or papers, interviewing with class relevant people on class relevant topics, writing critical papers by watching class relevant films, or reading class relevant books. I also plan to invite the students in the beginning of the semester to come and talk with me if they have an assignment idea as an individually contracted one.
Until now, the students seems to like having a variety of options. They like feeling autonomous to make decisions and to create a meaning out of the material they are exposed to. They can choose the assignments on the basis of their purpose in life, their abilities and interests, and build up a portfolio. As a part of the class, a student just started to volunteer in a class relevant research team, while another is interviewing with the counselors that she wants to be in the future. As Pink also points out I think that when there is a fairness with regard to assessment and there is a free space in which the students can play as they want to, then grades would not be the priority,, they just just enjoy the view.