Sunday, May 16, 2010

If we build it, they will come

There is a big difference between those who measure what they value and those who value what they measure.

When we pay attention to only what we can count, we miss a lot of what is truly important.

So how do we measure what is truly important?

Alan Stange, a teacher from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, left this comment on my blog:
Teachers always miss a lot. Students miss a lot. Everyone misses a lot. We don't have to catch everything. We simply have to create conditions in which learning can take place. If we build it, they will come.
I think Alan is saying that we need more trust. We need to trust teachers and students.

If we want to measure anything, we should place more emphasis on counting the inputs - the opportunities that kids have to engage in all kinds of learning - and if we can count the inputs, we don't need to be so obsessively empirical with the measuring of the outputs.

I use this quote a lot for a reason but all this can be summarized nicely by Albert Einstein:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

Thanks to Will Richardson for this post which is where I first saw this Calvin & Hobbes comic.


  1. We know that something occurs in the classroom and for the student it is just a blank. Later...sometimes much later, connections are made and something really big fits into the puzzle and a student has learned so much. So for all the little measurers, what do you do when the light bulb lights up years after the test?

  2. I think it is true that the connections often come much later. "If only I had realized then!" Yet I think we have learned that content has to have immediate utility. We will always struggle with learners if the content is not relevant, personal and connected. We want it to be authentic. C.A.Tomlinson points out, we want learners to be more powerful in the present as well as the future.

  3. I've heard of Tomlinson. I need to read more about her.

  4. This reminds me of my friend Ken Andrew's adaptation of Albert Einstein's quote re Assessment:
    "Are we counting marks are marking what counts?"
    I think you would appreciate reading Andy Hargreaves who speaks of 'Responsibility before Accountability' which is what I think you are getting at in this post.
    I wrote about Hargreaves 'Fourth Way' here:
    Without trust you get what Hargreaves calls "Professionalism without power"... which is not really about being professional!


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