Monday, October 01, 2007

Summative assessment - rugby style!

As those who follow me on Twitter will be painfully aware, our house is full of rugby at the moment, due to the fact that world cup is currently taking place in France. The quarter final round is about to begin and South Africa looks set (on paper, at least) to go all the way to the finals. Now before you North American types assume that this competition doesn't involve you, I would like to point out that both the USA and Canada have teams in the competition. Unfortunately both have been knocked out at the group stage, but still...

I have been a rugby fan for as long as I can remember. My father and grandfather both played the game well, and my maiden name was at one stage synonymous with the sport, since an assortment of second cousins x times removed featured prominently in the national team.

So where am I going with this?

During this competition, I have been struck again by the role of the referee in a rugby match. In no other sport that I can think of, does the ref behave in quite the same way. You see, rugby refs (in national and international matches) are miked up so that the television audience can hear what they're saying... and they say an awful lot.

Quite apart from explaining infractions when they have blown their whistle, they also call out things like "Hands off, blue!" "Watch your distance, green!" Constantly making input into the way the game is being played and ensuring that the teams observe the rules and the flow of the game is interrupted as little as possible. To be honest, it is almost as if he's coaching them... but this is a world cup match! And instead of just penalising the infractions, the ref is involved in minimising stoppages. Another way he does this is to "play advantage" - this means, if an infraction is made against a team, but that team maintains possession of the ball, the ref will let the game go on. If possession is quickly turned back over to the offending side, he will then impose the penalty for that infraction. He always indicates when he is playing advantage so both sides know the deal.

It got me to thinking about the extent to which we could apply this approach to situations in which we normally apply summative assessments in learning. An assessment that followed this approach is far more likely to be seen as formative, and yet, here is the rugby world cup being awarded only once every 4 years on the basis of a series of "formative" assessments.

Hmm. I wonder...


rlubensky said...

Karyn, the saying goes that Rugby Union is a thug's game played by gentlemen, while Rugby League is a gentleman's game played by thugs. And we won't talk about football. But what you are suggesting is that the gentlemen in France appear to allow their matches to be facilitated rather than just umpired.

ps. The umpire talks in Australian Rules too :-)

James said...

Ahh, a proper mans game for a change, just wondering, as an Australian living in England i can't bear to support the england team (thanks to Rob Andrew and that bloody drop goal0 so I support Wales (Jonathan Davies use to play for my local rugby league team in Oz, and he was by far the classiest player in the team). As a South African living in england do you have a northern hemisphere team you support?


Anonymous said...

I'll get you for this, James!

The short answer is no... but it does depend who's playing.

If South Africa isn't playing, I find I tend to support the underdog. How cheesy! So I can't often be relied upon to support Australia or New Zealand - although I totally relate to New Zealand's passion and have the deepest respect for the Australian ability to walk out onto the field as if they have already won the game.

Mind you, I found myself feeling smug that there were 5 southern hemisphere nations in the quarter finals. How weird is that?