Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Terms of Irritation

I'm not so young now, and not so prone to being lured into energetic disputation. However, I am sometimes irritated enough to fire off broadsides. Occasionally, I have been known to set satchel demolition charges around disputants' positions and blow them up while laughing like a maniac.

Of late, I've been most irritated by the terms 'alternative assessment' (alternative to what?), 'holistic assessment' (see elsewhere in this blog), and 'authentic assessment' (should we be giving inauthentic assessments?). These are silly terms.

Proponents of the first term say it is 'alternative to traditional'. Yeah, and when it becomes established, it will -be- traditional and probably the currently-traditional will have become alternative, no? I am reminded of the so-called 'alternative to practical assessment' which we were offered, and which later became the main mode of 'practical' assessment worldwide.

Proponents of the second term are mostly unable to say whether it is 'assessment of the holistic' or 'assessment that is holistic' that they mean. The former is not possible (the best map is 1:1, after all) and the latter is only slightly more plausible. Unless it means (as it often really does) assessment that offers a quick-and-dirty thumbnail sketch of whatever is supposed to be assessed.

Proponents of the last term are equally unable to say what 'authentic' means. Surely very few people use 'false assessment' or 'fake assessment'? Some change this to 'performance-based assessment', until I point out that 'performance-based' simply means 'based on carrying out whatever was supposed to be carried out'. Which of course says nothing about what is being assessed and how.

Times like this make one wish that education was not so much about hand-waving and vague platitudes, and more about hard thinking and ruthless disputation. Or at least, values. Ho ho ho.

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