Thursday, January 22, 2009

Running as assessment?

I used to run. A lot. I don't run anymore. I messed up my knee and the NHS says "We-ell, as we get older..." I don't have private medical. So I don't run anymore.

But I listen to runners talking. Twice a week, as I sit in the clubhouse while my son trains with the club. I hear them discussing this meet and that race.

And I think about running.

If you think about a race, it has a lot in common with summative assessments. You train for weeks on end, then you go and stand on the line with a bunch of other people. When that gun goes off, this is it. This is what all the training and preparation has been about. It doesn't matter how well you did in the training sessions. It matters only how quickly you cross that finish line.

You race against the other runners. You want to do better than them. You race against yourself. You want to do better than before. You're looking for that 'PB' that runners talk about. That personal best.

I'm okay that that's how it works in running.

I'm not okay that that model is applied in education. If I work my tail off all year. If I attend every lesson. If I complete all the set work. If I participate in class discussions and group work. And then I go to pieces in the sepulchral silence and the tension of the exam room, I am considered a loser?

Education is not a race. One brief moment should not outweigh the rest of the year.

In the exam room, I may not talk to other students. On the road, I can talk to other runners. In the exam room, I may not use my phone, or listen to my ipod to soothe my shattered nerves. On the road, I can do both of those things.

Er... no. Not any more.

It seems that in official road races nowadays (as opposed to fun runs) any competitor seen with an iPod is immediately disqualified. Two members of our club fell victim to this ruling at a recent event.

Perhaps they're afraid the person is listening to something which induces the same results as steroids. Perhaps having a rhythm playing in your ears gives you an unfair advantage (Was there ever a song like Faithless's "Mass Destruction" for giving a perfect running rhythm?)

I think we might have started to assess the wrong things out on the road just as much as we have been doing in the exam room.

The tide is moving in the wrong direction!

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