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’
Part 2: Self-assessment Can Help Students to Become More Responsible
for Their Own Education
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.
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.
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?
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?
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
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
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
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.
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:
Are my current reading speed and comprehension adequate to meet
my current personal needs?
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?
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
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.
We are using the Disqus commenting system to facilitate comments and
discussions pertaining to this newsletter. To use Disqus, please click
the Login link below and sign in. If you have
questions about how to use Disqus, please refer to this help