Learning in Mind

Rethinking the Purpose of Education

Articles About Learning and Assessment

These articles focus on fundamental questions about learning and how it happens, as well as the role of assessment in evaluating and/or measuring learning. Here are brief descriptions of the content and focus of each article.

What is Learning?

We send children to school to learn. So it seems obvious that what we must assess is the learning of the students. This is where simplicity ends and tremendous complexity begins. This article begins with the dictionary definition of, and synonyms for, learning and then compares them to the way educational metaphors characterize learning. Today's high-stakes assessments are built on these limited and limiting perceptions.

Learning and the Brain

A large component of the way one chooses to teach is based on what they believe about how people learn. Are those beliefs valid in the light of current research? How does the innate, natural way students in which students learn before they enter school compare to the opportunties for learning within traditional public schools?

The Meaning and Purpose of Assessment

The word assessment means "the evaluation or estimation of the nature, quality, or ability of someone or something." Further, the word evaluation is defined as the "making of a judgment about the amount, number, or value of something". There is nothing in the definition of assessment that requires measurement or the collection of quantitative data. Yet in today's public schools, the word assessment is synonymous with high-stakes tests that purport to measure learning.

Can Learning Be Assessed?

Let's assume that the purpose of assessment in education is to evaluate or estimate the nature, quality, or ability of learning. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted, or adequately comprehensive definition of learning. Learning clearly includes the acquisition of knowledge. This article explores various types of knowledge, only a few of which can be directly assesed. Only by recognizing and identifying what, specifically, it is that we want to "assess" can we begin to explore valid methods of assessment.

What is Authentic Learning?

If standardized education doesn't work, what does? This article traces the history of educational theories and accomplishments based on authentic human development and the way children learn naturally. Examples of three learner-centered schools are included.

What is Authentic Assessment

There is an unexamined belief that assessment must produce numbers. This article discusses the differences between quantitative and qualitative assessment, and provides examples of how learner-centered schools assess learning without using standardized tests.

Individuality and Equal Access

Based on the growing understanding of the variation in the brains of individuals, this article argues that one-size-fits-all standards and assessments actually fit no one. Only by shifting from traditional "group-think" to a recognition of individual strengths and interests can we facilitate the development of the unique potential of every learner.

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