Of Candy Crush and Assessments
I’ve just recently started playing Candy Crush. Pretty late in the game (and I’m probably the last one to be joining the now-dying craze), but I think the adage “Better late than never” still applies here. Don’t you think so?
Anyhow, I’m still on level 23. Don’t judge me now, but truth be told, I’ve been at it for a week. I have plenty of excuses: I’ve got a demanding full-time job and I’m enrolled in 9 units at OU, six of which are multimedia courses which I am struggling with.
My mission is simple: to clear all the jellies, yet I’ve managed to continually fail. I can no longer keep track of how many lives I have lost. Despite these failings, one can still give me credit for relentlessness. And with each failed level, I ask myself, “Why is success just always out of reach?”
This reminds me of my pre-med days when tests were the bane of my existence. If I failed (which I inevitably did), I’d have to re-enroll for the same course, attend the same boring lectures, see the same faces present the same things exactly the way it was presented the last time, do the same activities and take the same type of rigorous tests. There were some minor differences from the first time I took Human Anatomy and Kinesiology. (The first time, I had a charred cadaver for laboratory and a bloated, possible drowning victim the second time. I don’t recall the third. My mind has blocked it out!) But the goal was the same: keep students from passing the tests. I think that’s what the goal was anyway. There was but one definition of “success” in my learning process, and that is to maximize the correct answers and pass all assessments. And if I happen to get the short end of the stick (again!), then I go back and try again, and again if necessary. In this case, assessment was an endpoint, a measure for completion and a hurdle to overcome, that would unfortunately determine my projected success and whether or not that diploma was finally going to be within reach.
I must be a masochist for subjecting myself to the addicting grasp of Candy Crush. But both are indicative of a core message—measurement and finality: this is how you did. This is the bar, and either you cleared it or you didn’t. You failed. You didn’t clear all the jellies. Retry?
It’s all in the past tense.
Is this not an accurate representation of a typical assessment of learning? But of course, in an ideal setting, an assessment is never that simple. And in an ideal world, this should not be the case.
Assessments should be as ubiquitous as having a fresh cup of coffee in the morning and as familiar as your daily assignment homework. Perhaps, it’s time to re-visit the goal of education. If the goal of education is to promote learning and foster understanding, then assessments should not just be an endpoint in the learning process. Just like any process or development, it should be a cyclical and ongoing process of growth and measurement, not just of the student but also of the program, the strategies and the teacher’s skills. Assessments should be a tool for understanding how the learning process is progressing informed by the results of previous assessments. The goal is not the student’s ability to regurgitate information, but how they demonstrate what they know, and focus on learning and what they haven’t mastered.