Sunday, August 25, 2013

Henry Ford and Education

I would like to relate this to Education.  Over the last eight years, I have spent hours trying to create "better tests" (faster horses).  In the last two years, I started to question "Is there a limitation to these tests?"

Just like horses, you can create better tests, but there will always be limitations as to what you can do with these assessments.  Whether it is FOR or OF learning, tests, by their design, they can only give us a snapshot as to what a child can do.  As well, most tests limit the amount of knowledge a child can demonstrate to the knowledge of the test creator.

I often wonder, what if educators were like Henry Ford, and instead of making better tests they started working on something different?

Working with this question for quite some time, I have assessed students quite drastically in my class.  I refused to make "faster horses" and instead started working on "a car" for assessment.

First, I personalized assessment in my classes.
Next, I abolished grades in some classes.
Lastly, I even made my final exam a learning experience.

For a more in depth look, you can read through the links, for a quick snapshot here is what I have changed..

  • Students should be able to learn, and be assessed, at their own pace.
  • Students should be able to be assessed, retaught, and reassessed as many times as needed.
  • A multiple choice, numerical response, and written response test does not allow for as much creativity as an open ended, performance based assessment could.
  • Student choice, in how to demonstrate their knowledge, can allow students to bring their interests and passions into their own learning.
  • Students are more proud of work that is too large to fit on the fridge.

Were there problems with the first ford? Of course!  I do not think that my approach is the BEST, and just as a car still has limitations, so does this new approach towards assessment.  Just like a car and horse, my approach has the same goals as traditional assessments; to teach and assess students.  The difference...students in my class enjoy this new approach, and when I survey them at the end of each course 99% of them prefer this new assessment strategy compared to traditional assessments.

This journey has required me to ponder, as Henry Ford did, if we continue to think in the same mindset as all the people before us, all we will ever have is something a little quicker.  However, if we realize that our past knowledge may be holding us back, then we may create something more effective and efficient than we could ever imagine.

Lastly, as you read this I will leave you with another Henry Ford quote...