Information Age Education
   Issue Number 133
March, 2014   

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by Dave Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education project.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, three free books based on the newsletters are available: Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments, Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education, and Common Core State Standards for Education in America. For access to other free IAE books see the left side menu of http://iae-pedia.org/index.php?title=Special:PopularPages&limit=250&offset=0.

This is the second in a series of IAE Newsletters focusing on possible futures of education. The unifying theme is the exploration of changes to our current educational systems that have a good chance of substantially improving the education that our students are obtaining.

Education for Students’ Futures:
Part 2: Self-assessment Can Help Students to Become More Responsible for Their Own Education

David Moursund
Emeritus Professor of Education
University of Oregon

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. (English language proverb and nursery rhyme, originating in the 16th century.)

Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do.... The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything that doesn't violate too many of Newton's Laws. (Alan Kay; American computer scientist; 1940-.)


When you think about possible improvements in our various educational systems, what do you wish for? Are your wishes carefully considered, grounded in reality, and achievable? Alternatively, perhaps some of them might raise a note of caution described by the idiom, “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.”

Alan Kay, who is quoted above, helped pioneer the development of a number of important aspects of the field of computer and information science (CIS), including laptop computers. See http://iae-pedia.org/Alan_Kay. He and other CIS pioneers made forecasts about what could occur in the future of the field, and then went ahead and did the work to make their forecasts prove to be reasonably accurate.

This IAE Newsletter discusses one of my educational wishes and the topic of self- assessment.

My Wish

I wish that our informal and formal educational systems would do much better in helping students to take greater personal responsibility for their own education.

This sort of wish is a good conversation starter. But, notice how imprecise it is. Here are some examples of questions that need to be explored to help clarify my wish.
  1. Suppose we consider an individual student. Can we measure how much personal responsibility this student takes for his or her informal and formal education? Are our measurements sufficiently accurate so that we can measure progress over a period of days, weeks, months, or years? Do we have carefully research-based interventions that have a reasonable probability of increasing this student’s level of assuming responsibility? Who might take responsibility for implementing such interventions and carefully monitoring the results?

  2. What evidence do we have that education will be improved by our educational systems making progress toward achieving my wish? What money, time, and other resources will it take to make this progress? Where will the needed resources come from? Are there better ways to use these resources—better, in terms of improving our educational systems?

  3. What am I able and willing to do to help make my wish come true?

Usefully Accurate Forecasts

We all know that education is not an exact science. From my point of view, the more science-like a discipline is, the more accurately experts in the discipline can forecast its future. We know a great deal about the rotation of the earth on its axis and its orbiting the sun. Astronomers can quite accurately forecast the time of sunrise and sunset at a particular location on earth years in the future.

Weather forecasting is less science-like than these aspects of astronomy. However, weather forecasters make usefully accurate forecasts. That is, over time many people find weather forecasts accurate enough to be useful.

In terms of this sequence of IAE Newsletters, we are hoping to develop usefully accurate forecasts and plans about significantly improving our educational systems and helping the forecasts to be achieved. This specific newsletter illustrates what the editors have in mind.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Throughout my career I have seen the steady growth in the power and availability of ICT. It has been easy to accurately forecast this change over the years. See http://i-a-e.org/iae- blog/entry/moore-s-law-and-improving-education.html. For more information about the science of forecasting, see Moursund (2010). For forecasts made 50 years ago by two brilliant science fiction authors, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, see Colman (1/1/2014) and Kelly (9/4/2011).

I have long believed that this steadily improving ICT would eventually be thoroughly integrated throughout school curriculum content, instructional processes, and both formative and summative assessment in ways that would improve the quality of education our students are obtaining. While some progress has occurred, the progress has been slow and we have a very long way to go.

In summary, I can forecast changes in technology with reasonable accuracy, and I can wish for technology-based changes in our educational system. If my wishes are not too far misaligned with my forecasts, then I can do productive work to make my wishes come true, and I can solicit the help of others in making my wishes come true.

However, will education be improved by progress toward fulfilling my wish? Quoting from Shakespeare’s To be or not to be soliloquy in Hamlet:

To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub...

It is easy to propose—and to wish for— possible solutions to a problem. However, it is another thing to have solid research that provides strong evidence that the proposed solution will actually work.

Physical and Mental Self-assessment

A very young child who is just beginning to crawl does not do a conscious self-assessment of his or her crawling style, speed, and endurance. The child does not make conscious comparisons with other children. The same observations hold for initial learning of oral communication, walking, self-feeding, and so on. Increasing capabilities in these and many other areas result from innate drives, mediated by innate capabilities and encouragement from older people.

A young child does not consciously analyze his or her current physical and mental capabilities and growing capabilities, and then make decisions to do better. A child’s parents, guardians, doctors, teachers, and other caregivers encourage and support the types of progress that they believe is appropriate. Their skills in diagnosis, teaching, and childcare are critical to a child’s physical and mental development.

Gradually, however, a child gains increased self-awareness and can assume an increased level of personal responsibility. Good teaching and role modeling (via parenting and childcare, peer instruction, members of the child’s extended community, preschool, school, and social networking) make a huge difference both in a child’s physical and mental progress, and in a child learning to take increased personal responsibility for some of this progress.

Assessment and Instruction

To measure change (in this case, progress), we need baseline data and then regular monitoring of changes. Suppose, for example, I decide that I do not read as rapidly and with the level of comprehension that I would like. There are free self-assessment instruments available on the Web. See http://iae-pedia.org/Self-assessment_Instruments#Reading_Speed_and_Reading_Comprehension.

In addition, there are many websites that provide instruction designed to increase reading speed and comprehension. My recent Google search of increase reading speed and comprehension free produced nearly 230 thousand hits. See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_reading.

This provides an excellent example to support my wish. Reading is an important part of education. I want each student to take increased responsibility for his or her reading speed and comprehension. I want the student to ask:
  1. Are my current reading speed and comprehension adequate to meet my current personal needs?

  2. Are my current reading speed and comprehension adequate to meet the needs/desires of key stakeholders such as my parents, teachers, and the school system?

  3. Am I making appropriate progress toward achieving a level of reading speed and comprehension that will serve my personal foreseeable needs in the future, in my possible roles as a responsible adult, parent, and employee?
Schools, the Web, and many other resources are available to help the student. But it is the student who must put in the time and effort needed to become a better reader. It is the student who personally gains the benefits of becoming a better reader or who suffers the consequences of being a poor reader. Some students learn to consciously make this effort, and others don’t.

Access to Free Self-assessment Instruments

The Web is by far the world’s largest library. As children learn to read, and to make responsible and effective use of this library, they gain access to immensely valuable resources.

I am particularly interested in free self-assessment instruments and accompanying materials designed to help a person gain increased levels of expertise in the areas being assessed. My current collection of such materials is available in the IAE-pedia article at http://iae- pedia.org/Self-assessment_Instruments. I encourage my readers to send me links to other self- assessment instruments that can be accessed at no cost on the Web. I will be pleased to add these to the IAE-pedia article.

Final Remarks

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with an expert on early childhood. She told me about helping four- and five-year-olds learn to think about their thinking—that is, to learn reflection and metacognition techniques. I am also reminded of the research and practice of helping Head Start children learn to pay attention and to focus their attention.

Work on metacognition, attention, and other key ideas such as “think before you act” illustrates that our increasing level of research-based knowledge and practice in these areas can be usefully incorporated into our early childhood education. Gaining knowledge and skills in these areas helps to provide a foundation for students to become more responsible for their own education.

As children grow toward physical and mental maturity, they develop the capacity to take more and more responsibility for their own physical and mental wellness and growth in these areas. Each of us can help students to develop enduring habits of mind in these endeavors.

References

Colman, D. (1/1/2014). Isaac Asimov predicts in 1964 what the world will look like today—in 2014. Open Culture. Retrieved 1/4/2014 from http://www.openculture.com/2014/01/isaac-asimov-predicts-what-the-world-will-look-in-2014.html.

Kelly, K. (9/4/2011). Arthur C. Clarke predicts the future in 1964...And kind of nails it. Open Culture. Retrieved 1/4/2014 from http://www.openculture.com/2011/09/arthur_c_clarke_looks_into_the_future_
1964.html
.

Moursund, D. (2010). Planning, forecasting, and inventing your computers-in-education future. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Available at http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/23-planning-forecasting-and-inventing-your-computers-in-education-future.html.

Moursund, D. (n.d.). Self-assessment instruments. Retrieved 3/9/2014 from http://iae-pedia.org/Self-assessment_Instruments.

Moursund, D. (n.d.). Self-assessment. Retrieved 3/9/2014 from http://iae-pedia.org/Self_Assessment.


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About Information Age Education, Inc.

Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. Current IAE activities and free materials include the IAE-pedia at http://iae-pedia.org, a Website containing free books and articles at http://i-a-e.org/, a Blog at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog.html, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at http://iae-pedia.org/IAE_Blog and all back issues of the Newsletter at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.